The Best Neil Young Albums of All Time
'On the Beach'
For many, many years, On the Beach was Neil Young's great lost album. The LP didn't generate a lot of heat when it came out in 1974, and Young didn't release it on CD until 2003. Its absence from the marketplace turned it into somewhat of a mythical album, and those who dug it up in the pre-Internet days discovered an incredibly depressing album about the perils of fame. The opener "Walk On" confronts Young's critics, while the creepy "Revolution Blues" is told from the perspective of a Charles Manson-like serial killer. Side two is a more serene affair. "Ambulance Blues" and "On the Beach" are two of the strongest songs Young has ever written, and two of the saddest.
Recorded after (but released before) Tonight's the Night, On the Beach shares some of that album’s bleakness and crude production—which came as a shock to fans and critics alike, as this was the long-awaited studio follow-up to the commercially and critically successful Harvest—but also included hints pointing towards a more subtle outlook, particularly on the opener, "Walk On".–Wikipedia
It remains extraordinary that Michael Franks has not broken through from his small but devoted following to a wider audience, for he is without any doubt the most complete and perceptive songwriter currently active. His songs speak of love lost, found, abandoned, imagined, destroyed, recaptured, and all shades of nuance in between. Anyone who has experienced any emotional joy or upset (ie. anyone over the age of thirty) will find the memory of the experience captured in the deliciously subtle words and music of Michael Franks. "Heart Like an Open Book", has the male narrator singing, with a naive joy that is almost painful for the cynical listener to observe, of how he and his new lover reveal themselves, one to the other, with their hearts "like an open book". Cultural and literary references feature in many of the songs (eg. "I flashed my Rhett Butler look"), and are a joy to those with whom they strike a chord, but are not obstructive to the enjoyment of the music by those oblivious to such references. This album is perhaps not as good as the earlier, utterly marvellous "Abandoned Garden", but as that was one of the finest albums of all time, this is not in any way a criticism.