Nils Lofgren – The Loner

January 01, 1970

(Vision Music)

www.nilslofgren.com

Long before he became a hired gun for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Nils
Lofgren kept similar company with Neil Young, contributing to Young’s seminal
set, After the Gold Rush and sitting
in on Crazy Horse’s excellent self-titled debut.  Lofgren went on to greater glories of course,
not least of which was his own band Grin, and the series of early albums that
marked his emergence as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and performer.  Nevertheless, he still considers Young a
mentor of sorts, prompting some payback via The
Loner – Nils Sings Neil
. It finds Lofgren accompanying himself on piano and
guitar while paying homage to fifteen of Young’s most memorable
compositions. 

 

Tribute albums can sometimes seem skewered; if the cover
artists veer too far from the blueprint, they risk alienating those faithful to
the original renditions.  On the other
hand, if they nail the material too precisely, there’s little point in
retracing it to begin with.  In this
case, the album leans to the latter, Lofgren’s clear, quivering tenor sounding
so much like Young’s that if one weren’t aware, they’d probably not know the
difference.  Opening track “Birds” is a
clear case in point; given the heartfelt delivery, it could easily be mistaken
for the original demo.  Given the sparse
settings and earnest interpretations, the same could be said of any of these
tracks. 

 

While the unadorned approach does wear thin after awhile, it
also opens up the essence of these songs, specifically, the gorgeous melodies
that inform the best of Young’s elegiac catalogue.  Certainly there’s no quibbling with the
choices – “Birds,” “Long May You Run,” “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong,” “On The
Way Home” and “Harvest Moon” among them. One might argue that “Don’t Be
Denied,” a song that ruminates with autobiographical detail, could seem
incongruous when sung by anyone other than its author.  Or that the lack of more ample arrangements
distills the insurgent intent of relentless rockers like “The Loner” or “Like a
Hurricane.”  

Regardless, those would be minor complaints. 
The Loner – Nils Sings Neil reflects profound devotion.  For fans of
either artist, this should be considered an essential acquisition.

 

Spotlight
tracks:
“Long May You Run,” “Harvest Moon,” “On the Way Home” LEE
ZIMMERMAN

 

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