Neil Young - Hitchhiker

by Kevin Wierzbicki

It's kind of ironic that the latest release from Neil Young is called Hitchhiker; considering that the material within was recorded in 1976 and is just now seeing the light of day, that means the album has been standing at the side of the road with its thumb out for more than 40 years. Fans of Young's '70s era output will be ecstatic though now that Hitchhiker has finally gotten a ride. Recorded between the Zuma and American Stars and Bars albums, all the material on Hitchhiker is previously unheard until now in the versions presented here, even though most of the songs have been released over the years in other forms. So what you have with Hitchhiker is the first recorded versions of beloved Young cuts like "Pocahontas," "Ride My Llama" and "Powderfinger," performed as they were originally intended, with Neil singing alone in the studio accompanied only by his acoustic guitar playing and a little bit of harmonica. Many would consider that the best way to enjoy his unique voice and the nuances of his delivery, and as example Young's reading of "Pocahontas" here, with lines like "I wish I was a trapper/I would give a thousand pelts/To sleep with Pocahontas/And find out how she felt" is filled with far more wide-eyed wonderment than any previously-released version, of which there have been several. Similarly, the starkness of "Captain Kennedy" really hits home here, especially because of its cold ending, while the title cut is a plaintive look at a life on the move, with hash, speed, valium, pot and cocaine coming along for the ride and with Young portraying a character, possibly himself, who wishes he could get away from it all be being an Aztec in Peru. Hitchhiker also holds the original versions of "Human Highway," "The Old Campaigner" and "The Old Country Waltz," all tunes that Young fans have had plenty of time to get comfortable with in subsequent versions. Two previously-unreleased cuts are included too; the foreboding "Hawaii" and "Give Me Strength," a song about getting re-centered in the wake of a failed love relationship. Young is such a prolific artist with presumably so much material in the can that there's no need to wonder why Hitchhiker took four decades to be released; all you need to know is that it is one sweet ride.

Neil Young - Hitchhiker

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