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On the Beach

4.7 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 19, 2003
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This 1974 release has, over the years, come to be regarded as a classic. It's definitely Neil at his most uncompromising-a little like its predecessor Tonight's the Night except more full of rage than sorrow, and downright funny at times. A must.


Sparse, underproduced, and at times downright dour, On the Beach was Neil Young's first studio album after Harvest had transformed him into a mainstream superstar two years before. It was a career move akin to "pissin' in the wind," as the artist himself describes life on one of the album's most famous lines. Young had already recorded the harrowing Tonight's the Night, his indictment of '60s drug culture and the damage done, but his label rejected it as too abrasive. So the artist gave them this instead. Less mournful but still haunting, the album is basically Young's rejection of rock stardom and what had become of the counterculture, covering a range of subjects, including Richard Nixon and Patty Hearst (the epic "Ambulance Blues"), his affair with actress Carrie Snodgrass ("Motion Pictures"), and, most famously, years before it became "chic" to do so, Charles Manson (the rocking "Revolution Blues"). "Vampire Blues," meanwhile, seemed to be about all those topics, as well as Young himself. Full of despair and little hope, On the Beach would nevertheless eventually come to be reappraised as a rock culture masterpiece. --Bill Holdship
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 19, 2003)
  • Rmst ed. edition
  • Original Release Date: 1974
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Reprise / Wea
  • ASIN: B00009P1O0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,345 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Neil Young's 1974 release On The Beach is considered one of his classic albums, but for some reason the album was never released on compact disk. Finally, the album has made its way to the digital age and Mr. Young's fans can enjoy one of his most blisteringly savage albums. After his record label rejected his eulogy to two lost friends, Tonight's The Night, Mr. Young came up with the ragged edged On The Beach. The album opens with "Walk On", Mr. Young's rebuttal to Lynyrd Skynyrd's rebuttal of him as well as a rebuking of the press who criticized him during his 1973 tour. "See The Sky About To Rain" confronts a similar environmental topic as "After The Gold Rush" and has an eerie organ and a haunting steel guitar played evocatively by long time cohort Ben Keith. "Revolution Blues" is a dark and disturbing song about a cult and the terror they may inflict on the wealthy residents of the Laurel Canyon that is clearly inspired by the Manson family. The song's music belies the dark tone of the lyrics with shimmering guitars that undercut the subject matter. It is very good song, but Mr. Young would go onto to perform the song acoustically on the subsequent tour that would better capture the stark nature of the song. "For The Turnstiles" is a brilliant song that is driven by a stuttering, bluegrass banjo and was inspired by the stadium tour he had just completed with Crosby, Stills & Nash. Mr. Young was clearly disturbed by the fact that big business was starting to take over rock and roll and art was suffering for commerce. The song foretells of the selling out of musicians and the forming of corporate rock. "Vampire Blues" is a stinging commentary about the oil business.Read more ›
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By A Customer on June 14, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Finally, Finally...4 of the lost 6 are available on CD. 'On The Beach', once deemed subpar upon release and ignored, has now gained legendary status among critics and Neil's fans, probably in large part to its "vinyl only" status--not even available on cassette! 'On The Beach', 'Time Fades Away' and 'Tonights The Night' are Neil's greatest trilogy, each hated when they came out since everyone wanted another 'Harvest'. Now everyone knows differently. I have come to prefer the harrowing songs of 'On The Beach' more than the more popular 'Night.' (save for the greatest road song ever written, "Albuquerque.") The deeply expressive "Ambulance Blues" involves many things--Neil's personal trials regarding the people around him, the end of the 60's, and Watergate. "Revolution Blues" and "On The Beach" evoke an anger at the society of the times and represent Neil's most effective songwriting.
If you are curious about all four of these formerly "lost" albums, but not sure which to buy, make certain "On The Beach" is the first. The other three are not nearly as artistically strong or interesting, save for "Like A Hurricane" on 'American Stars and Bars', a collection of unreleased tracks in 1977. However, all four are still essential to Neil's fans or completists. Hopefully they will be able to get "Time Fades Away" remastered eventually--the master tapes, I've heard, have some mastering problems that can't be overcome at the moment.
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Format: Audio CD
[WARNING: Long review]
Neil Young is a widely varying, sometimes frustratingly inconsistent artist. However, he was clearly at his peak in the late '60s and early '70s, putting out at least five studio albums that could be deemed classic: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After The Gold Rush, Tonight's The Night, On The Beach, and Zuma.
You may notice I didn't put Harvest in that list. While Harvest is certainly a good album, it's almost TOO accessible and tries too hard, in my opinion, to be commercially successful. It also suffers from the two London Symphony Orchestra tracks. Neil's best work often came when he didn't give a damn about what his audience or record label wanted, and so that puts Harvest out of the running for best in my book. After The Gold Rush was a great album, as was Everybody Knows.. and Zuma, but each album had one or two tracks that didn't feel up to par.
That leaves just two PERFECT Neil albums, both released in the dark period of the early Seventies after losing Bruce Berry and Danny Whitten (members of his backing band Crazy Horse) to drug abuse. Tonight's The Night is a dark, harrowing, bleak trip through a shattered hippie dream, an amazing album but nowhere near accessible, maybe a little TOO dark for some. 1974's On The Beach is more easily digestible and lighter, but still quite bleak and very personal. It has remained inexplicably out of print for almost 25 years, but thankfully Neil has brought it back with a remaster (now, if he would only release Time Fades Away to complete the "Doom Trilogy").
On The Beach ranges from moodily atmospheric (the title track) to quite upbeat (Walk On) but throughout Neil's mood is bitter and confessional.
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