Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Neil Young: Time Fades Away [Reprise, 1973]
This is no desperate throwaway or quickie live album. Loud and dense but never heavy, singing with riffs concocted from the simplest harmonic components, it's squarely country, yet it never hints at nouveau-rockabilly good times. The opener, "Don't Be Denied," is an anthem of encouragement to young hopefuls everywhere that doesn't shrink from laying open fame and its discontents. And the finale, "Last Dance," evokes the day-job hassles that pay for Neil Young tickets, suggests alternatively that "you can live your own life," and then climaxes in a coda comprising dozens of "no"s wailed over a repetitive back-riff. It must have been strange to watch fans boogieing slowly to this mournful epiphany. But with the Stray Gators (driven by ex-Turtle Johnny Barbata instead of ex-Dylanite Kenny Buttrey) doing as much for Young's brooding, wacked-out originality as Crazy Horse ever did, it sure is exciting to hear. A