Neil Young Michael Watts - Essay

Michael Watts

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The title track which opens "Time Fades Away" is Young's] own approximation of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."…

It's interested more with the sound of the lyrics and their rhythm than the content, and is taken at a fast clip.

The first two lines will give you an idea: "Thirteen junkies too weak to work; One sells diamonds for what they're worth." Glib, but it's got heat. "Journey Through The Past" is another title song, but from his movie.

It catches him in one of his more lachrymose writing moods, when the combination of his plaintive voice and funeral atmosphere becomes too much….

"Don't you wish that I could be here too?" he sings on "L.A.," which he describes as "city in the smog" in the chorus. Its overbearing seriousness makes it novelettish and a little risible….

["Love On My Mind"] is muted, short and balladic. It's pretty and possibly because of its length, it escapes being maudlin.

Side Two begins with the best song of the album, "Don't Be Denied."…

This is very directly autobiographical, going over incidents in his childhood….

The song is, in fact, an odyssey of his experiences, with a philosophy contained in the line "all the glitter is not gold"—a cliche but obviously meant. The song transcends its personal implications because its broad message has been the experience of many other musicians. Lennon exposed himself more openly but Young has done it with greater conciseness in one song.

What's more, with greater resilience and optimism….

["The Bridge"] is a love song of great poignancy and some wit….

In the long run, and despite the excellence of "Don't Be Denied," this album I think will go down as something that he had to get out of his system.

Michael Watts, "'Time Fades Away'," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), September 8, 1973, p. 27.