After 46 years, Neil Young’s shelved album is out. It was worth the wait.

Or Mishal
7 min readAug 23, 2023
Credit: Michael Putland - Getty Images

A few listens are enough to understand that Chrome Dreams is one of Young’s most successful albums in the seventies. The songs are not new, but their original performances are nothing short of amazing. It’s unclear what led Young to keep fans waiting for him for decades, but now we can only be thankful that it’s finally out.

In the late seventies, Neil Young declared that “it’s better to burn out than fade away.” This line appeared twice on the massive album he released with Crazy Horse in 1979 — Rust Never Sleeps. The soft acoustic that opened the album was once in the My My section, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue). And a second time, about half an hour later, in the electric and furious Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) that sealed it.

A quarter of a century later, this line would appear in Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter. But unlike the lead singer of the band Nirvana, who chose to end his life at 27, Young is still with us. He is no longer a sprinter who fears fading due to a series of failures but a calculated long-distance runner who can overcome artistic and personal low periods. And what’s more, Young was and remains a brave musician — and a somewhat stubborn type — who, even deep into his 78th year, works at almost the same pace he displayed in his great years in the seventies.

In that decade, Young wrote, recorded, and performed non-stop. Touched with success (more than once), met with failure (much more than once), chose to connect to electricity, and knew how to turn to the acoustic (and come back, God forbid).

Credit: neilyoungchannel

The many personal and musical upheavals that Young went through during the formative life period of his career gave birth to not only some of the more important albums in the annals of rock but also caused the man to shelve quite a few projects that he did not feel complete with in real-time.

These storms charted the path that Young treads to this day. His musical style remained almost the same, and his attitude and integrity didn’t change much either. Instead of becoming a star full of mannerisms, he preferred to remain a loyal rock worker.

But even successful musicians who are blessed with the ability to self-criticize occasionally discard songs, and even full albums, that they are not completely satisfied with. These materials are rarely lost. In many other cases, they remain locked in a drawer until the musician’s heirs think it’s time to make some cash from them. But with Young, what was once put away was revealed someday.

Credit: GSS Studio

And now comes the most important example of this, with the official and first release of the Chrome Dreams album — considered the greatest and sought-after lost diamond in Young’s long body of work — a symbolic delay of 46 years. In 2007, 30 years after the original Chrome Dreams was signed, Young released the beautiful album Chrome Dreams II as a kind of tribute to that Genize move, in which he inserted completely different songs.

Those who follow Young’s recording career know that it is usually quite a rewarding job, but also one that requires a lot of resources from the listener, such as money and time. Quite a few people in the music industry believe that the album format is dead, and it is better for creators — old and young alike, regardless of their style — to stick to singles from now on. Yang is one of those who think otherwise. This is true not only of his past material, which comes out (for the first time or again) at the rate of one or two titles in an average calendar year, but also of the new albums he continues to write, including last year’s World Record and the magical Barn from about two years ago, both with Crazy Horse.

Young accepted the Corona period with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he embarked on a persistent fight against the deniers of the epidemic and the opponents of vaccines, during which he also chose to remove his music from Spotify’s servers. Since she has yet to return there, you’ll have to hear Chrome Dreams’ songs elsewhere.

Credit: neilyoungchannel

On the other hand, he used his free time to make a comprehensive order in his huge recording archive. During the long days that Young spent on his farm in one of the closures, he realized that albums with which he had previously been insufficiently whole now deserved a less severe judgment.

As part of his updated measure of compassion for his younger self, Young embarked on a comprehensive liberation trip.

About three years ago, he released a box that sought to encompass his activities in the middle of that decade (another box is expected to be released next year) and the album Homegrown, which he finished working on in 1975. And by the way, Young’s shenanigans — Homegrown was shelved at the time in favor of another Young album, the masterful Tonight’s the Night (also released about two years after its original date).

Even before Young decided to shelve Homegrown, he began writing during December 1974 the songs for his next album — Chrome Dreams. Work on the album lasted over two years — a long time in Young’s terms, and during this time, he released two other albums — only for the project to eventually be shelved.

Young, who wrote the songs, occasionally changed the musicians who participated in the recordings and the arrangements here and there. Some of the songs born to appear on Chrome Dreams, including Powderfinger, Pocahontas, Look Out for My Love, and Like a Hurricane, eventually found a warm home (in a different version) on other Young albums that appeared in the second half of the 1970s.

In contrast, songs like Too Far Gone or Strongman had to wait long before they saw the light of day. Their appearance on those albums may have been welcome in quite a few of these cases, but it didn’t always sound natural, either. And so, even though the songs of the shelved album were gradually revealed over the years, the Chrome Dreams legend grew as time passed.

Credit: GSS Studio

It’s problematic to re-rate old albums of an artist you’ve been following for several decades. But while listening to Chrome Dreams, it is gradually revealed to be one of Young’s more successful albums in the seventies and requires a reorganization of the Young chart.

This is a beautiful album, certainly in the top ten of Canadian musicians (and Young has released more than 40 studio albums to date), which shows a successful combination of the two sides of Young in that decade.

On the one hand, you will get here the writer of the smart ballads that graced his two successful albums from the beginning of the decade (After the Gold Rush and Harvest), who shines in quite a few acoustic and melodic songs in intimate performances that sound as if he is sitting and playing in front of you in the room.

On the other hand, there are also examples of Young’s insistence later that decade to escape from the relatively soft style that won him fame in the beginning and characterized equally great albums such as On the Beach, recorded with the band members, and the dark Tonight’s The Night.

As mentioned, although the 12 songs that appear here are not new, listening to them in their original version produces a kind of revelation, for example, with the delicate Stringman, which was only revealed in Young’s rather disappointing unplugged show from the early nineties.

Credit: Farm Aid

Even a relatively “small” song like Hold Back the Tears, which Young performs here alone, sounds more natural than the well-known and less successful version that appeared in 1977 on the American Stars ‘n Bars album.

The same uneven album that “earned” to house almost half of the songs intended for Chrome Dreams and also includes some tracks with Crazy Horse members, such as Homegrown and Like a Hurricane.

The latter, considered Young’s comeback hit after the commercial crisis he experienced in the mid-seventies, appears here in an even more excellent performance than the one you have known and loved until today, lasting close to eight and a half minutes of bliss.

Saden Delivery also demonstrates how the simple chords that Young played on his screeching guitar, accompanied and backed by the nuclear sound of Crazy Horse members, are some of the most beautiful sounds in nature.

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Or Mishal

Or Mishal is a composer, guitarist and is an enthusiastic supporter of young and anonymous musicians worldwide. For more, visit http://ormishal.net