Neil Young still breaks your heart on 'After the Gold Rush'

COURTESY PHOTONeil Young's 1970 "After the Gold Rush" sounds especially great on vinyl.

COURTESY PHOTONeil Young's 1970 "After the Gold Rush" sounds especially great on vinyl.

In the more than 500 pieces in my vinyl collection, I have an eclectic mix of new and old music, and I often add to it. And, yes, my wallet hurts sometimes.

Nearly every Saturday, I take a trip to a nearby Amoeba or Rasputin to shuffle through boxes and boxes of used records. Sadly, they are not necessarily in good condition or worth the money. Yet it doesn’t matter. If I see a classic that hits my mood, there’s nothing I can do about it.

These days, I’m into Neil Young — still. My collection started inconspicuously in college when I received “After the Gold Rush” as a gift. It’s a constant favorite, something I go back to every couple of weeks.

My love for Young started when I was a Wildcat at Williams Middle School in Tracy and my dad’s small CD collection included Young, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens. Dylan and Young remain truly special and dear to me, regardless of the drivel they’re making these days.

I love diving into my early pressing of “After the Gold Rush” — it’s not original, but one of many re-releases over the years — because the sound is everlasting on vinyl. It’s not in mint condition but it’s still a sublime listen. The little scuffs are a great ambient addition.

Young’s falsetto on the rock, folk and country songs are the heart of the sound. His heartbreaking voice adds so much meaning to the lyrics. I don’t simply hear what he’s singing about, I feel it.

Right from the first tune, “Tell Me Why,” the album is melancholy and emotional — Young at his most bare and open.

It also wonderfully showcases pronounced harmonies in ways that influenced contemporary artist such as Fleet Foxes. Meanwhile, the piano in “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” delicately balances the powerful harmonies on the chorus.

Best of all is the closer “Cripple Creek Ferry,” perhaps the album’s most playful track. It’s slightly more uplifting than the other tunes, and a brilliant way to finish the LP.

cramey@sfexaminer.com

After the Gold RushartsNeil YoungPop Music & Jazz

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