Neil Young’s discography is a hard course to trek through.
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With albums full of “lost” songs, completely “lost” albums, and tracks that have no formal home but have been performed live long enough that fans consider them integral in the Young zeitgeist—it’s a lot to unpack.
With a back catalog that is so sprawling, which continues to grow as he unearths old material, there are too many songs to count that have either gone unreleased or under-appreciated. We’re here to highlight a few tracks that are gems in the behemoth that is the Young catalog.
1. “Sixty to Zero”
Young has never been afraid to try out unreleased material in front of a live audience, even if the song isn’t fully fleshed out. One prime example of this was “Sixty to Zero,” which he debuted in the summer of 1988. The original 20-minute-long epic was later reworked as “Crime in the City,” which appears on Freedom. The lengthy track would have been a big ask for the radio, even for Young, so it’s understandable why it didn’t make the singles cut. However, it’s one of Young’s most lyrically intense tracks, chock full of narrative heft, and could’ve held its own if given the chance.
2. “Over and Over”
Young and Crazy Horse truly returned to their glory days with Ragged Glory in 1990. The entire album holds up to anything they did in their pomp back in the ’70s. One notable track from the record that was left out of the singles circuit is “Over and Over.” The track was said to have been nailed in a single take on a “perfect full moon night.” The mystique of the recording session definitely bled over into the wistful song.
Young brought the track back out in 2012 for a performance at the famed Red Rocks amphitheater and reminded fans of the dreamy track nearly 22 years later.
3. “Slip Away”
Young’s Broken Arrow marked the first of his albums that were created after the death of his longtime producer David Briggs. Though it may not be as strong as some of his other albums of the era, it does have some shining moments across. One such moment is “Slip Away.” The jammed-out track is a continued testament to why Crazy Horse remains one of the greatest backing bands in rock history. The live version on Year of the Horse is even stronger.
4. “Restless Consumer”
Young may have started some controversy among the hippies of the early ’80s when he praised Ronald Reagan, but within just a few years he was back in their good graces with “Rockin’ in the Free World” and has remained a staunch liberal ever since. His 2006 album, Living With War, is a bold statement of his political ideals, taking aim at George W. Bush and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Though much of the album seems cemented in a particular time and place, “Restless Consumer” feels as potent today as it was upon its release. Ranting about consumer culture, the song features amazing Young lyricism, including lines like, Don’t need no ad machine / Telling me what I need / Don’t need no Madison Avenue War.
5. “Don’t Be Denied“
Young let loose a host of his “lost” tracks in a live album called Time Fades Away. One forgotten masterpiece taken from the record is “Don’t Be Denied.” The intense track is an autobiographical song that wears a path through Young’s entire life. Covering topics like his parents’ divorce as a child and the rise of Buffalo Springfield, it’s an ambitious endeavor—one that Young handles in his stride. He’s only played the track a handful of times across a couple of decades, but it remains one of his most chilling, poignant songs to date.
(Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)