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Glen Boyd: Neil Young FAQ - Everything Left to Know About the Iconic and Mercurial Rocker

Doug Collette By

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Neil Young FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Iconic and Mercurial Rocker

Glen Boyd

400 pages

ISBN: 978-1617130373

Backbeat Books


Glen Boyd's Neil Young FAQ contains plenty of good information and a fair amount of insight into the work of "The Iconic and Mercurial Rocker" referred to in the subtitle. Unfortunately, a somewhat amateurish writing and editing style too often undermine those virtues.

Generally a chronological examination of the Canadian musician's career, the book benefits significantly from inclusion of content covering recent projects of Young's including the LincVolt auto experiment and the reformation of Buffalo Springfield. Boyd also does an excellent job detailing the relationship between unreleased albums such as Chrome Dreams and tracks which subsequently showed up on albums such as American Stars & Bars (Reprise, 1977).

Yet even as the author covers such fascinating sequences of events, he fails to clearly illuminate the creative patterns that have arisen over the course of Neil Young's career. Inquiry into certain topics, such as the recounting of Young's various band lineups in the early stages of the book, becomes repetitive to a fault, not to mention factually questionable: were both Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey members of singer James Brown's band?

There might've been more astute cutting and pasting to effectively focus on particular themes, too, because even in the chapters homing in on Neil Young's work with Crazy Horse or "The Ditch Trilogy" of albums—Tonight's The Night (Reprise, 1975)Time Fades Away (Reprise, 1973) and On the Beach (Reprise, 1974)—there's a sense the author is skipping around, examining topics multiple times from ever-so-slightly different angles without discerning continuity or creating one of his own.

Glen Boyd might better have devoted a more extensive portion of this book to the various bootleg recordings available of Neil Young's followers. Boyd's enthusiasm for this topic is never more apparent than in the fact-gathering and inspection of this phenomenon, especially in light of the artist's own vehement reaction; thus, to delve deeply into extensive examination of the unofficial version of The Neil Young Archives (Reprise, 2009), or the remarkably comprehensive concert releases, might inspire more understanding about Young's creative impulses, not to mention more accurately reflect the writer's overall devotion to this artist.

As with any such project, Neil Young FAQ invites quibbling with the relative emphasis devoted to its chosen topics. Does Trans (Geffen, 1982) deserve multiple segments devoted to it outside of discussion of Young's ill-fated tenure with David Geffen? And his lavish praise of the Daniel Lanois-produced studio work LeNoise (Reprise, 2010) is an indulgence in opinion the likes of which Boyd reins in elsewhere. Still, his credibility only suffers when he makes factual mistakes such as noting original guitarist/composer Danny Whitten's replacement, Frank "Poncho" Sampedro, makes his first appearance on Tonight's The Night rather than Zuma (Reprise, 1975).

Arguably a pivotal an entry in the Young discography, representing as it does Young's regrouping with Crazy Horse after a protracted period of solo work, this long-term alliance deserves the same evenhanded, focused discipline Glen Boyd devotes to the collaboration with Pearl Jam. The author's passion for the work of Neil Young is the antithesis of a mere fanboy, but the informality of his writing style too often suggests otherwise, begging the question of how much of this content derives from his blog. Had the prose been edited with a slightly more scholarly approach, the end result would maximize Glen Boyd's deep feelings for his subject and formulate a simultaneously provocative and enlightening analysis of his controversial subject.


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