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A Treasure
Neil Young
International Harvesters
A Treasure
Released 10 June 2011
Producer(s) Neil Young, Ben Keith
Label Reprise
Length 52:43
Genre Country, rock
Website www.neilyoung.com
80

In the mid 1980s Neil Young was facing a lawsuit from his record company for exploring a more traditionally country sound in his music. They wanted radio-friendly rock songs, but Young had something else in mind. He joined up with renowned country act The International Harvesters and hit the road to explore the traditional sound his record company hated, leaving his rock roots behind. They toured the US between 1984 and 1985 without either the support of an album or even a record label.

Young’s latest release –A Treasure– was recorded entirely during this tour, and features a mix of reworked Young classics as well as previously unreleased tracks written by Young. While country music was always an influence on classic Young albums like Harvest, he never explored those as fully as he does here. The result lives up to its name. It is an absolute treasure, something that highlights the eclectic nature of Young’s music, as well as showcasing the fact that Young can make brilliant music out of just about anything.

The unreleased tracks are something of an ode to the country music itself, they dive headlong into the country sound without looking back. Even if country music isn’t your thing it’s impossible not to get caught up and carried away by Young and The International Harvesters’ sheer enthusiasm. It’s impossible to listen to this album and not enjoy it. Tracks like 'Amber Jean' and 'Let Your Fingers Do The Walking' see Young having fun with a medium he clearly loves. Both Yong and his backing band are clearly giving their all to their performances, and as a live album A Treasure succeeds brilliantly in capturing a unique moment in music.

Some of the best moments on the album come from reworked versions of older Young songs, which fit beautifully into the traditional county music sound. The version of 'Are You Ready For The Country?' is a wild, fun take on a classic song. This version also fits this song perfectly, and the fact that even the original had a certain country tone suggests that maybe this is the way it was meant to be played all along. Elsewhere Young gives a fantastic of rendition of 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong', originally written by Young during his Buffalo Springfield days. The original was no doubt a beautiful piece of music, but this version is sheer brilliance. The smooth, dreamy chords weave in and out alongside Neil’s soft melancholy voice, which is at its most lonely and vulnerable.

A Treasure concludes with another previously unreleased gem, 'Grey Riders'. While still in tune with the country sound of the album, 'Grey Riders' is also a great Neil Young track full stop. Full of distorted, blistering, feedback infused guitar solos, this song also has a deeply haunting edge. This alone could justify the release of the album, as could many of the other tracks on here.

- Bernard O’Rourke