Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Tonight’s The Night
It’s an album overstuffed with storylines. Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten had died the previous fall, followed by the band’s roadie Bruce Berry, both of heroin overdoses. It was with all this in mind that Young entered the studio to record a new album in late summer 1973, hot off of a by-all-accounts disastrous tour (immortalized on his first live album Time Fades Away) that trashed the goodwill of the American record-buying public that he’d built up with his breakthrough album Harvest.
What’s more, he didn’t release this until after he’d put out On The Beach, which, in hindsight, is the reflective comedown Tonight’s The Night needed. And somewhere around this time he recorded a now-mythical album called Homegrown that supposedly bridges all this perfectly and he’s never released it.
No matter; Tonight’s The Night stands as his best album. Young once insisted no one ever listen to it during the day and you can see why. It begins and ends like a drunken wake and in between has him relaying tales of characters with “bullet holes in his mirrors” who “roll another number for the road.”
Amongst all that we have “Borrowed Tune,” which, Young openly admits in the song, borrows from the Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane”; signature mid-tempo rockers in “World On A String” and “Lookout Joe”; bleary-eyed jams like “Speakin’ Out” and “Tired Eyes”; and material not-too-dissimilar from Harvest like “Mellow My Mind,” “Albuquerque” and “New Mama.” The conceptual masterstroke comes in throwing in the 1970 live track “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” which basically amounts to having Whitten sing and play guitar at his own funeral.