Skip to content

Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night (1975)

February 3, 2015

[Album 374/1001]220px-Neil_Young_TTN_cover

Follow-up albums are fascinating.

Musicians dream of having a smash hit but once it happens, what next?

I’d imagine many artists, either out of comfort or conventional wisdom, choose to go back to the same sound-well.  To borrow a Kinks album title, give the people what they want.

I’ve started to prefer the records that bring the party to a crashing halt.  Think In Utero, This is Hardcore, Kid A.

And Tonight’s the Night.

It was supposed to be the follow-up, at least, to the mega-popular Harvest.  Though On The Beach ended up being released first, I’d say considering Tonight’s The Night was shelved for almost two years between its recording & eventual release, it becomes an even more intriguing listen.

In the entertainment world, when something isn’t released right away, chances are there is, let’s call it, a non-surplus of quality.

No such quality issues here.

Up until a few years ago, Young’s vocals were a major deterrent for me but they’ve since become something I look forward to with his records.  I appreciate how his voice is imperfect; most singers* would do a re-take of a song like Tired Eyes but with Neil, the almost-hit notes get the job done.

When it comes to vocal precision, I picture Neil shrugging & saying as Joe Flaherty did (in the role of Bing Crosby from Dave Foley’s The True Meaning of Christmas Specials**), well, that’s close enough for jazz!

I was expecting Tonight’s the Night to be virtually un-listenable.  Much like with the lead-up to some of the aforementioned follow-ups, everything I’d heard or read suggested this would be an unbearably bleak recording.

It’s likely that my expectations were managed effectively as playing this album several times over the last week or two has been far from a challenge.

I’m now keen to explore On The Beach; partly because from what I gather, the cheerful, sunshine imagery conjured by its album title is misleading.

*Or some labels would likely insist, if not correct digitally after the fact.

**A holiday tradition that is equal parts awful & awfully entertaining.

From → 1970s

  1. There is real enjoyment in reading your responses to albums well known. I take pleasure from your discovery of Bleak Young and I’m sure you’ll enjoy On The Beach.

    With the cheerful cover, you’ll notice he’s facing the ocean not the camera and that beach equipment is in fact a mostly buried automobile (think end of Planet of the Apes). I haven’t checked, but it’s probably an overt Neville Shute reference; his 1957 novel of the same name is about the end of the world.

    Would it be shameless to include a link to my piece on the third (and my favourite) album in the trilogy?

    • It would be shameful not to!

      I remember reading that Heart of Gold-middle of the road line. TTN felt like an intentional swerve into the ditch – which I’d agree with Neil, often a more interesting place

  2. Excellent points. I’ve always found that, with Neil, it isn’t about whether he can sing or hit the notes. I don’t think he cares. He’s just DOING, and when he gets the sound he wants that’s IT and the rest of us are welcome to catch up with him if we so choose. That’s NEIL. So, of course, as much as there’s sheer brilliance all over the place, there’s a lot of stuff that just clunks. But taken in a different light, or if there hadn’t been ten other albums to make us feel like we knew of something better by him in the same vein, those clunkers would still be solid frickin’ gold.

    • There’s something refreshing about that – not everyone’s going to have Mariah Carey’s multi-octave range and Neil’s certainly not aiming for it.
      And I recall you said Mrs. KMA was not a fan of his voice – I’m living proof that his voice can be an acquired taste!

  3. Nice post. I’ve always considered this to be one of my go-to Neil Young albums. It’s a great listen, and I dare say I find a lotta comfort in that one. As for On the Beach, I don’t think I can express my feelings about that one. Declaring it as being incredible just doesn’t cut it …

  4. The title track gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it, still.

  5. Tonight’s the Night is my favorite NY album, I’m sure because it’s so eraw and imperfect. But On the Beach is a great one, too. There’s a great story in the NY bio Shakey about a tripped-out Rusty Kershaw recording his parts lying on the floor of the studio with all of the lights out.

    • And I see he’s credited with playing the fiddle – doesn’t sound like an easy task to do in the conditions you describe!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack (1963) | 1001albumsin10years
  3. Youssou N’Dour – Immigrés (1988) | 1001albumsin10years
  4. 1975 | 1001albumsin10years

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: