Neil Young’s always been a contrarian, an artist who follows his muse irrespective of trends. This was especially true during the 1980s; he followed his creative instincts into uncharted waters, but as a result he wound up the defendant in a bizarre breach of contract suit that claimed he wasn’t making “proper” Neil Young records! Expecting the unexpected became his trademark, and no truer example of this is Bluenote Cafe, a two-disc set culling recordings from his 1988 tour, and is the latest collection in his ongoing Neil Young Archives series. While his cronies from the Sixties and Seventies were mining the nostalgia circuit for vast riches, Young’s setlist on this tour offered little in the way of remember when moments. Instead, his new backing band, Bluenote Cafe, focused solely on new material, performing much of Young’s current album, This Note’s For You, and its follow-up, the then to be released Freedom. It’s okay that he’s not too nostalgic, because this band was straight-up blues rock in a way he had never been before. “Welcome To The Big Room” and “Bad News Comes To Town” are simply scorching, as is the rest of the set. The sole moment of nostalgia comes in the form of the album-closing “Tonight’s The Night,” a more raucous version Young’s yet to record. Young would, naturally, move away from this sort of sound, but for that brief moment, he and his band were the best damn bar band in the world.
Bluenote Cafe is available now via Reprise.