Only the most dedicated Neil Young fan could keep up with his prolific output, which runs to over 40 studio albums, eight live albums, four soundtracks and an ongoing archive series gathering together obscure and unreleased recordings. And that’s not counting his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
So it might be understandable if anticipation for yet another new release was muted among all but the most hardcore of devotees. But what if I were to tell you that it was a lost album of acoustic heartbreak from the mid-1970s, when Young was still one of the shining stars of rock?
Homegrown was recorded between December 1974 and January 1975. Young had just split up with Carrie Snodgress, an Oscar-nominated actress and mother of his first child, Zeke. In a musically sparse setting and state of raw emotion, he lamented their tumultuous relationship, pondered its bitter path and fretted about his future. A track list was prepared and cover artwork completed for release in June 1975, but at the last-minute Young changed his mind.
“It was a little too personal, it scared me,” he admitted to Rolling Stone a few years later. “I’ve never released any of those [songs]. And I probably never will. I think I’d be too embarrassed to put them out.”
Instead, he swapped it for an entirely different set of songs, previously recorded and put aside in 1973. Tonight’s The Night offered a more ragged and rocky side of Young, although its mood of darkness and desolation at the drug deaths of two close friends was hardly a bundle of good cheer.
Well, they say time heals. Now, 45 years later, Young has finally come to terms with his long-abandoned album, describing it as the missing link between laidback classics Harvest (1972) and Comes A Time (1978). “It’s the sad side of a love affair,” Young wrote on his website. “The damage done. The heartache. I just couldn’t listen to it. I wanted to move on. So I kept it to myself, hidden away in the vault, on the shelf, in the back of my mind … but I should have shared it. It’s actually beautiful. That’s why I made it in the first place. Sometimes life hurts.”