Neil Young with the Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
The sheer volume of material released by Neil Young, both new and archival, necessarily means that some will be keepers and others shrugged off. It would be a mistake to let apathy set in though, because sometimes a truly exceptional title finds its way into release. Tuscaloosa is one of those. An 11-track performance dating from 1973, taking place at the university in that Alabama city, the show featured Young’s “other” band at the time (read: not Crazy Horse), the Stray Gators: Tim Drummond (bass), Kenny Buttrey (drums), Jack Nitzsche (piano) and Ben Keith (steel guitar). Notably featured on the albums Harvest and Time Fades Away , the band naturally leaned toward the country side of things, largely due to Keith’s pedal-steel playing, but also served as sympathetic foils to Young when he cranked the volume, as he does toward the end of the set. It starts quietly, Young opening solo on acoustic guitar with “Here We Are in the Years,” a track from his 1969 debut album, then moving over to piano for a gentle reading of “After the Gold Rush.” The band is still holding back somewhat as Young rolls through such crowd-pleasers as “Harvest,” “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold,” and goes into full Nashville mode for “Time Fades Away.” As the set continues through Tonight’s the Night ’s Lookout Joe and New Mama, and Harvest ’s “Alabama,” Young finally has a solid stomp going.