Article by: Jason Robey
Neil Young fans rejoice, as the ten songs he recorded 41 years ago, with just an acoustic guitar and his voice, have finally seen the light of day.
On August 11, 1976, Young and his producer, David Briggs, entered the Indigo Ranch Recording Studio in Malibu, CA. Young was in the middle of a very productive time of songwriting and recording — having released two albums in 1975, a collaborative album with ex-bandmate Stephen Stills earlier in 1976, and would follow up with a studio release every year for the next six years.
Only 2 songs on Hitchhiker, “Hawaii” and “Give Me Strength,” have never been released in any form, although fans may have heard Young play the latter song live over the years. The former, a quiet ballad, conjures up a dark image with its minor key and the haunting space surrounding Young’s voice and the sparse guitar notes.
On “Campaigner,” Young sings of a place “where even Richard Nixon has got soul,” repeatedly throughout. This recording of the song was released on the 1977 greatest hits album, Decade, though a full verse was edited out. This recording of the album’s opener, “Pocahontas,” has also appeared before on the 1979 release Rust Never Sleeps, though was heavy overdubs added.
The album is not without a handful of upbeat tracks. The title track is reminiscent of the popular “Rockin’ in the Free World,” stripped down to an acoustic guitar. “Captain Kennedy,” the only song on Hitchhiker that has been released in the same version before, and “Powerfinger,” which was recorded live with Crazy Horse in 1979, are two of the most lively songs on the album, Young’s voice exuding an excitement that feels like he’s singing to a room full of fans.
Hitchhiker closes with Young asking for his mic to be moved to the piano, before a beautiful performance of “The Old Country Waltz,” which was recorded with Crazy Horse a year later for the American Stars n’ Bars album.
Hitchhiker is a solid album and an intimate glimpse into the mind and heart of a 70s-era Neil Young, stripping away all the excess and allowing his songwriting to shine.
Pick up your copy here: http://www.neilyoung.com/hitchhiker/