This may be the best release yet from Neil Young's extensive archives. "Homegrown" was supposed to come out in 1975, after "On the Beach," but Young shelved it and went deeper into the ditches with "Tonight's the Night."
Young calls "Homegrown" "the unheard bridge between Harvest and Comes a Time," and like those beloved records, it's mostly acoustic, with lots of his harmonica. The accompaniment is sparse and familiar. Longtime bandmates such as pedal steel player Ben Keith and bassist Tim Drummond appear, as do some high-profile friends like Emmylou Harris and the Band's Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson.
Five of the 12 songs would go on to surface on Young's later albums, sometimes rerecorded. Some of them, like the jaunty "Love is a Rose" and the resigned "Star of Bethlehem," are already classics.
Young's marriage to actress Carrie Snodgress was dissolving when he recorded most of these tracks, in late 1974 and early 1975, and many of them chronicle his cynicism and disillusionment, starting with the mournful opener "Separate Ways."
They're juxtaposed with several ragged celebrations of pot-smoking, such as the title track, the seemingly disingenuous "We Don't Smoke It No More," and the hazy spoken-word piece "Florida" -- songs that could be bridges from "On the Beach" to "Tonight's the Night."
Throughout the '70s, Neil Young was on a hot streak of excellent albums, and Homegrown is another one.
-- Steve Klinge