Forty-one years ago, on August 11 1976, Neil Young entered Indigo Studios in Malibu, along with his long-standing studio collaborator David Brings, and committed ten acoustic tracks to tape over the course of a single evening, with Young only pausing – according to his memoir – to partake of substances his mother would probably prefer he avoided. For whatever reason, Young wasn’t feeling the recordings at the time and, with the session occurring in the middle of a profoundly prolific period of his career, he opted not to use the songs at the time, instead periodically reworking them for release on later albums.
The past decade has seen Young finally get around to raiding his musical archives for the long touted Archives series of releases, and now the products of that long-ago August night are released as the ten-track album, Hitchhiker. 1979’s semi-live album with Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps, is the album that borrowed most heavily from this session, offering up arrangements of Pocahontas, Powderfinger, and Ride My Llama that were subtly tweaked to work in a full-band setting, as is the case with most of Hitchhiker’s tracks. Hawaii and Give Me Strength – represent songs not previously released over the course of Young’s career, and these are welcome additions to his enormous and influential songbook.
Interestingly, the titular Hitchhiker was issued in 2010 on the similarly stripped-back album, Le Noise, albeit in that case the song was reworked into a piece of drone that boomed and ground along, underscoring the song’s narrative of coming to terms with celebrity, long stints on the road, family, and drug use. Both versions are greatly insightful, and it is satisfying to be able to listen to the reflections of a 31-year-old Young side-by-side with the same reflections of Young at the age of 65. Fans of Young’s will be eager to wrap their ears around these previously unreleased recordings, and those new to Young’s work could do far worse in terms of being introduced to his substantial catalogue.