Hitchhiker

Neil Young

It's hard to say how much time Neil Young spends in recording studios or how many songs come tumbling out when he's there. Suffice to say, it's more than most of his contemporaries. Some of it isn't all that good, but much of it is brilliant. In the 70s, it was like a nonstop spigot of creativity. Even then, some of it got lost in the shuffle. That's what happened to Hitchhiker, an album Young recorded one night with engineer David Briggs in 1976. Apparently, the label bosses weren't all that impressed with the record, though most of its songs were re-recorded and found homes on other albums.

"Pocahontas," "Powderfinger" and "Ride My Llama" landed on Rust Never Sleep. "Captain Kennedy" ended up on Hawks & Doves, while "Human Highway" went to Comes A Time and "The Old Country Waltz" is on American Stars 'n Bars. The song "Hitchhiker" didn't see the light of day until 2010's Le Noise. And "Campaigner" was added to Young's 1977 three-record retrospective Decade. To shake up the hornet's nest, "Pocahontas," "Powderfinger" and "Captain Kennedy" were supposed to be included on another unreleased album called Chrome Dreams, but that's another story.

As a whole, Hitchhiker is Young baring his soul with only his voice and an acoustic. There's no pretense, no gimmicks, no overdubs. It's just the man in the studio doing what he does best — digging down deep and letting it all out. The two unreleased songs — "Hawaii" and "Give Me Strength" — slide seamlessly into the mix, and will likely draw the most speculation. At the end of the day, it's easy to see the singer-songwriter was in the midst of an extremely prolific period. Play Hitchiker right after the recently released Original Release Series Discs 5-8, which includes 1973's Time Fades Away (making its debut on CD), 1974's On The Beach, 1975's Tonight's The Night, followed five months later by Zuma, and you'll be taken on a three-year journey bound with a soundtrack of Neil Young's most powerful songs.

~ Shawn Perry

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