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Rust Never Sleeps
Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Reprise 2295
Released: June 1979
Chart Peak: #8
Weeks Charted: 39
Certified Platinum: 2/7/80

Neil YoungSome people think the hippie attitude lives as long as Neil Young survives, and here's some good news for them. Young divided this album into an acoustic side and an electric side -- an arrangement that does not thrill me -- and when the opener, "My My, Hey Hey," gets a reprise at the end as "Hey Hey, My My," the electrified sound is as distorted as he and Crazy Horse can make it, to go with the works "Rock and roll will never die." To tell the truth, much of the electric side is running on a lean mixture, let's say, musically. "Sedan Delivery," written in 1977, is a throwback to the psychedelic mishmash song, and "Welfare Mothers" (which is a good idea) is just a chant, every other line being "Welfare mothers make better lovers." But the meat of the acoustic side ("Thrasher," "Pocahontas," and "Sail Away") is so good -- and such a unique, Neil Young kind of good -- that it qualifies the whole thing as a job well done. "Pocohontas," especially, is a high point; in addition to a funny twist of lyric involving Marlon Brando as the top certified Indian lover, it has a neat twist of chording at a key spot, for which they wisely brought in a twelve-string guitar. Except in "Thrasher," Young's viewpoint is slightly detached from the action, just enough to make everything wryer than usual. A toast, then, to the King of the Hippies, realizing that with hippies you can't have everything.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 11/79.

Bonus Reviews!

Young is joined by Crazy Horse and as a result, rings similar to some of his earlier recordings with the band. Side one is on the mellow side with Young on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Side two is much harder and rocking as Young lets rip on electric guitar. Much of that side comes off as muddled with the acoustic stuff brighter and folkier and more in tune with his successful Comes A Time LP. In addition to Crazy Horse, Nicolette Larson joins in on "Sail Away." Best cuts: "My, My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)," "Sail Away," "Powderfinger," "Thrasher," "Sedan Delivery."

- Billboard, 1979.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Rust Never Sleeps
Original album ad art.
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For the decade's greatest rock and roller to come out with his greatest album in 1979 is no miracle in itself -- the Stones made Exile as grizzled veterans. The miracle is that Young doesn't sound much more grizzled now than he already did in 1969; he's wiser but not wearier, victor so far over the slow burnout his title warns of. The album's music, like its aura of space-age primitivism, seems familiar, but while the melodies work because they're as simple and fresh as his melodies have always been, the offhand complexity of the lyrics is unprecedented in Young's work: "Pocahantas" makes "Cortez the Killer" seem like a tract, "Sedan Delivery" turns "Tonight's the Night" on its head, and the Johnny Rotten tribute apotheosizes rock-and-roll-is-here-to-stay. Inspirational Bumper Sticker: "Welfare mothers make better lovers." A+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The final year of each decade seems to be Young's ultimate inspiration, and Rust Never Sleeps is a major tenet for that theory. Arguably his most successful noncompilation release, it is imbued with rock poetry, anguished performance, and insightful vision. For all his celebrity and success, Neil Young still maintains the hungry, vigilant stance that gave such an electrifying edge to the music in the two preceding decades. "It's better to burn out than to fade away" -- "Down the timeless gorge of changes where sleeplessness awaits" -- "Then I saw black and my face splashed in the sky" -- "Welfare mothers make better lovers" -- "I'm makin' another delivery of chemicals and sacred roots" -- "Hey, hey, my, my/Rock & roll will never die/There's more to the picture/Than meets the eye" -- he may say it offhandedly, but he says it. More than just an essential Neil Young recording, this is an essential rock & roll record, and there aren't as many of those around. While sadly a bit compressed, the sound moves from bright, appropriately edgy acoustic, to raw, harsh raps of electronic assault -- it fits. A+

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

Like the album that followed it, Live Rust, this is a live album. The difference is that this is a single disc containing all-new material. The songs are among Young's best ever, "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," "Thrasher," and "Powderfinger," among them. * * * * *

- William Ruhlmann , The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and Weld (1991) are two great live albums -- the former a collection of awesome new songs, the latter serving notice of Young's turn-of-the-decade return to form. * * * * 1/2

- Alan Paul, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Effectively straddling different styles -- the acoustic first side featuring Nicolette Larson complements the vitriol of the electric side with Crazy Horse -- this tribute to the rowdy punk scene of the late '70s gave Neil back his street cred as American's leading iconclast folk-rocker. Some of the llyrics are pure haiku ("it's better to burn out than it is to rust") that became a philosophy and a rallying cry. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

In 1978, Young went on tour with a batch of songs his audience had never heard and got two albums out of it -- Rust Never Sleeps and the double LP Live Rust. Both are essential Neil Young, full of impossibly delicate acoustic songs and ragged Crazy Horse rampages. Highlights: "My My Hey Hey" (a tribute to Johnny Rotten), a surreal political spiel called "Welfare Mothers" ("make better lovers") and "Powderfinger," where Young's guitar hits the sky like never before.

Rust Never Sleeps was chosen as the 350th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

By 1979 Neil Young was celebrating surviving the 1970s with his integrity intact, Village Voice magazine even nominated him as "Artist Of The Decade," confirming him as one of the few stars of his era, along with Dylan and Van Morrison, to make the successful transition.

Young was forging ahead with his solo career on two fronts. A film entitled Rust Never Sleeps premiered in July 1979, comprising concert footage shot the previous year at San Francisco's Cow Palace, but a simultaneously released album of the same title was more interesting. An acoustic side featured Young solo, while an electric side saw him backed by stage band Crazy Horse. The record is bookended by variations on a song, "My My, Hey Hey," which ruminated on the fleeting nature of stardom; it became legendary after Nirvana's Kurt Cobain quoted it in his suicide note.

Acoustic highlights included "Pocahontas," inspired by Sacheen Littlefeather's apparance at the Academy Awards to turn down Marlon Brando's Oscar for his role in The Godfather. (Young had explored the destruction of the Native American peoples on Buffalo Springfield's "Broken Arrow.") "Thrasher" was a veiled commentary on his relationship with Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

The four scorching electric numbers on side two, recorded live but with audience sound removed, kicked off with "Powderfinger," a Western tale, and concluded by a second blast of the album's theme song, entitled "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)." The sound of an artist refusing to burn out or fade away.

- Michael Heatley, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Recorded live (and overdubbed in the studio), Rust Never Sleeps is Young's half-acoustic, half-grunge ode to his own restless relevance. He calls his former CSN bandmates dead weight on "Thrasher" and celebrates the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten on "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." The highlight is "Powderfinger," a Western parable in which the pioneer hero gets his head blown off. Even Johnny Rotten never came up with anything so brilliantly twisted.

- Angie Martoccio, Rolling Stone, 1/20.

The live Rust Never Sleeps is essential Neil Young, full of impossibly delicate acoustic songs and ragged Crazy Horse rampages. Highlights: "My My, Hey Hey" (a tribute to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) and "Powderfinger," where Young's guitar hits the sky like never before.

Rust Never Sleeps was chosen as the 296th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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