The Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque New Mexico. Courtesy photo.

NICOLE RECOMMENDS:

LISTEN TO NEIL YOUNG, ZUKE & LACK — Say what you want about 2020, but it has given us some pretty great music:

Smiling with My Eyes: Songs About Covid-19 Safety is the debut EP by multi-instrumentalist brothers “Zuke & Lack” aka Zach (Dear Nora, iji, Mega Bog) and Luke (Dream Machines) Burba. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, the EP is a whimsical, DEVO-meets-Yo Gabba Gabba, kid-oriented (but not for kids only) collection of songs about keeping safe (“Wear A Mask”) with your friends outside (“Social Distancing,” “Caring for My Community”) and at school (“Virtual School”). Whether you have kids, know someone who does, or are a kid at heart, this album is bound to make you smile.

Purchase Smiling with My Eyes directly, or listen from anywhere you stream music: https://www.songsforteaching.com/store/zuke-and-lack-c-464.html

Neil Young’s Homegrown is the gift I didn’t know I needed but I’m sure grateful I got it. Young’s 40th studio album was released in June of this year, but it consists of material recorded between 1974 and 1975, in between sessions for On the Beach and Zuma. He had two albums in the can at that time, Homegrown and Tonight’s the Night. Playing these two back to back one night at a Chateau Marmont bungalow for some friends (John Belushi, The Band’s Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, and a few members of Crazy Horse), the group consensus went in favor of Tonight’s the Night.

On top of that, Homegrown was written during Young’s painful split with Carrie Snodgress, and contains some of his most emotionally raw songwriting. He now describes the album as “the one that got away.” With features by Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith, Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, and album artwork by the late, infamous Tom Wilkes, Homegrown is a rare gift for any Neil Young fan. You can purchase or stream Homegrown on Neil Young Archives, or anywhere you stream music: https://neilyoungarchives.com/album?id=A_089

CHARLES COMMENTS: I was making one of my first scouting forays to LA’s music biz scene from my home in Albuquerque, in late May 1975, anticipating my long-awaited and delayed move there. I made the rounds of all the record label execs I had been in contact with over the years, writing for my college daily The Lobo, the state’s largest paper The Albuquerque Journal, and every underground rag that surfaced, and there were plenty of them. They paid me in albums and it added to my portfolio, but the best reason came out of left field.

I was sitting in the basement reading room of the famous Paradiso club in Amsterdam in ‘72 or ‘73 — EVERYone has played there — taking a break from the wonderful loud music upstairs, and as I shuffled through the underground papers spread across a table, lo and behold I spotted Astral Projection, a very strange, artsy, esoteric, mystical belle epoqueish oversized paper out of my hometown, and even bigger surprise, there inside was one of my reviews. It was a pretty awesome feeling that my words and opinions were here halfway across the world, being read perhaps by hip music fans from all over the world. Or even, Mick or Bob or Toots. You never know.

BACK TO LA

I managed to wangle an invitation to a listening party for the new, unreleased Neil Young album, Tonight’s the Night, on my birthday no less, and was jazzed to maybe meet Neil, and also to hear a song on the album titled “Albuquerque.”

(Local Note: he dubbed his musicians lineup on 9 of the 12 songs, “The Santa Monica Flyers.”)

But don’t count those chickens. If Neil was there I never saw him. My invitation did not include a pass to the back room drug party, I guess. And when I finally heard “Albuquerque” come on — I made a quick critical evaluation, that it was one of the worst songs I’d ever heard, sung as badly as even Neil Young could manage.

I figured that every studio recording I’d heard by Young up to that point had required 50 or 100 takes on the vocal, but this one was probably one take. There was no other explanation unless he was just trying to defame and embarrass us.

It’s a long Spanish name that few can spell unless they grew up there. It’s a rite of passage when, as a schoolkid, you do finally master it. Third grade, usually. High school, for some. It’s got 11 letters and four syllables, but Neil decided to stretch it out to 9 or 10 syllables, or 14. I think it was an experiment to try to hit all the notes he’d never hit before. It was godawful and I didn’t forgive him for years for using up Albuquerque’s good name on a screeching piece of primal therapy.

AND THEN THERE WERE THE LYRICS

Most offensive: It begins, it leads off with, its opening words are, “Well, they say that Santa Fe/Is less than ninety miles away.” OK, accurate I suppose; “less than a thousand miles away” would also be true, but something I thought everyone knew, or would at least have heard if they came to Albuquerque and wanted to drive to Santa Fe, was that it was 60 miles away. Depending on where you leave from and arrive to, but, 60 miles, Neil, that’s what anyone would tell you. Did you ask some gas station attendant who just moved there from Florida the day before? About an hour’s drive, unless you step on it, but you shouldn’t because the desert and mountain scenery drifting by are worth a million bucks.

I know you think I’m being very parochial and prickly, but New Mexico has a culture, man, a real, amazing culture unlike anywhere else in the States, and you have to respect it. He didn’t.

“And I got time to roll a number and rent a car. Oh, Albuquerque.” Uh huh. Oh Albuquerque, love their rental car companies. Why didn’t you just title the song “Santa Fe”?

“So I’ll stop when I can/Find some fried eggs and country ham.”

Neil, Neil, Neil, fried eggs and country ham? He really has no idea where he is, does he? Huevos rancheros, my man, as you can get them only in NM. Smothered with Hatch green chile, or maybe Christmas (red and green).

By the end of the song, I had little appreciation for the rest of the album. But he sure got one thing right, the last line of the song — “I’ll find somewhere where they don’t care who I am. Oh, Albuquerque, Albuquerque.”

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com