Friday, May 2, 2008

Number 10 Sleeps With Angels

#10 Sleeps With Angels
Artist: Neil Young
Released : August 16th, 1994

Track Listing

My Heart
Prime of Life
Sleeps With Angels
Western Hero
Change Your Mind
Blue Eden
Safeway Cart
Train of Love
Trans Am.
Piece of Crap
A Dream that Can Last

Seth said "Go get the plow out Merle this place looks just right".

Monsters can come in all shapes and sizes. Big terrifying archetypes that live at the bottom of a British Loch, little parasitic demons that infiltrate the most minute of weaknesses, and sometimes a monster can even be in the form of a CD that you never gave a listen to. Let me explain myself.

I got a promotional copy of Sleeps With Angels as a gift and for whatever reason at the time I unceremoniously heaped it in with the rest of my music collection. Soon it was forgotten and years went by before I gave it a listen. Before I finally listened to it many, many times I would see it in the used or "value" bin at the store. This regrettably affected my desire to listen to it. Couldn't be too good if it's been discounted or discarded right? I forgot about it entirely until I had to move and went through an inventory of the only real thing of value I had (My CD's). After listening to Sleeps With Angels it is scary to think of it waiting in the shadows, knowing what it knew, knowing it would consume me for a long time. Sleeps With Angels is a monster.

A number of articles and blogs have been written about this album that Neil Young himself has rarely if ever commented on. Much rumor has centered on the work's primary themes of loss and pain relating to the suicide of Kurt Cobain, that happened during the recording. Cobain quoted Young's line "It's better to burn out than to fade away" in a goodbye letter. It has thematically been linked to Tonight's The Night, which also followed or at least coincided with a heroin death as well (Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse). Sleeps With Angels is a monumental statement, so full of it's own atmosphere that once it seeps in it demands repeat listening. It simply will not allow any other music to be heard. This atmosphere is haunting and foreboding which creates an intensity of emotion that frankly makes the album hard to just pick up and play. You can't casually listen to Sleeps With Angels or at least I can't.

The album to me is the ultimate eulogy. It is like being at a funeral and the Preacher asks, "Does anyone have anything they would like to say about so and so?" Then Neil Young with his long time cohorts Crazy Horse step up and perform this song cycle. Let me just say no one else would need to speak after that! There are a handful of songs that I can't listen to without getting teary eyed. Gulf Coast Highway by Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, He Never Got Enough Love by Lucinda Williams, are two that immediately come to mind. Right along side these is Train of Love from this album, which in one line encapsulates the essence (to me) of Sleeps With Angels.

When that lonesome whistle blows, no one knows, no one knows.

But what is unique is that this line is given its depth from the songs before it and what you know will follow.

When I listen to Sleeps With Angels I think of the people I've lost either through death or time or circumstance and what they mean to me. It is not all tragedy and an exacting amount of comfort comes after A Dream That Can Last and it's that comfort that Sleeps With Angels provides that brings me (when I am brave enough to dare) back to it's fold.

So let this be a warning to you, there may be a monster in your music collection. There sure as hell was one in mine.

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