Neil Young - Weld

by James Weiskittel Rating:10 Release Date:1991-10-22
Neil Young - Weld
Neil Young - Weld

In a career where each artistic step has felt like a reaction to the one before it, Neil Young’s 1991 Weld/Arc release is perhaps best summed up as the live document that captures Young and his live band at the peak of their collective abilities.  A record so sonically dense that Young claims the mixing sessions permanently damaged his hearing, Weld documents the 1991 tour in support of the critically acclaimed Ragged Glory, an album regarded by many (this reviewer included) as one of the best from Young’s mid-period ‘grunge’ years.

The chemistry between Young and Crazy Horse - his long-time partners in crime Billy Talbot (bass), Poncho Sampedro (guitar), and Ralph Molina (drums) - is tangible from the first feedback-drenched notes of “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).  That song, along with the obligatory live staples “Cinnamon Girl” and “Rockin’ In The Free World” are all given the definitive performance treatment by the band.

While Ragged Glory may feel a bit over-represented (with a total of five songs), the album’s already-built-for-stage selections go over incredibly well here, as the songs feel all the more visceral (“Love to Burn’, and “Farmer John” in particular) in the context of what is an otherwise ‘greatest hits’ set.  A particularly moving version of Zuma’s “Cortez the Killer” and a masterful fourteen-minute rendition of “Like a Hurricane” are clear album-highlights, and feature some of Young’s most inspired guitar-playing on record.  And to that point, incredibly tight vocal harmonies are on full display throughout much of the set.

Included as a companion piece with the ‘special edition’ of the original release, the thirty-five-minute compilation of dissonant feedback-drenched guitar noise that is Arc is easily relegated to the ‘for completist’s only’ pile.  Arc is more or less a gratuitous sonic exploration, neither an adding or subtracting from the stellar content of its counterpart. If that’s your ‘sort of thing,’ then it’s obviously a treat, but this writer has honestly never made it past the five minute mark.  

Above all else, Neil Young’s prolific run has always been marked by his refusal to march to the beat of any other drum other than his own.  At a time when many of his contemporaries were cashing in on their legacies, forgoing the process of creating new music in favor of the far more lucrative business of redundant compilations and endless ‘greatest hits’ tours, Young consistently opted for the far less bank-able path of forging ahead into the unknown.

To that point, Weld reveals a rejuvenated Young (who was an impressive forty-five years young at the time of its recording) rocking out to his heart’s content.  With a litany of live documents to choose from, (Rust Never Sleeps will forever remain the obligatory go-to) Weld will probably always be an oft-overlooked mid-career gem; but a gem it remains nonetheless.

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