"Horse Back"

Engineered and mixed by John Hanlon at Audio Casa Blanca Jan 6, 2012, assisted by Mark Humphreys and John Hausmann

Video by Ben Johnson

Music by Crazy Horse

First streamed on on Jan. 28, 2012.

Neil Young announces the likely return of Crazy Horse




Rumors began little more than a week ago. Eschewing a potential Buffalo Springfield tour and the near-certain cash cow that figured to be, word began to spread that, for the first time since 2004, Neil Young was playing with Crazy Horse.

In typical, cryptic fashion, those hints seemed to be affirmed when, this past weekend, Young replaced his typical Web site with a 37-minute video of a new Crazy Horse jam. The piece meanders through an instrumental version of “Fuckin’ Up” and into “Cortez the Killer,” while the camera flies around the band’s space.

The credits confirmed that this was, indeed, new music, recorded on Jan. 6 by longtime engineer John Hanlon, the entire project bearing the title, “Horse Back.” Few ways seem as fitting a reintroduction of the band as unleashing an unhinged guitar workout like this.

This jam is everything a Horse jam should be. Loud. Epic. Thundering. Lumbering. Plodding. Hairy. Messy. Off time. Off beat. Life affirming. This is the kind of music that made Graham Nash’s blood boil, the meandering stream of conscious only offered by Crazy Horse in the midst of their element.

The Horse is at its best when it’s not spooked. There’s no audience other than, presumably, engineer Hanlon, who was likely in the other room, watching through a closed-circuit hook-up. The notes are loud and long, chords hanging in the air and falling not-so-gently to the barn floor.

But the sound wasn’t lost to the ether. With Young, it rarely is. Tape rolled. And this past weekend, Young gave his legions clawing for new Crazy Horse music an outlandish teaser, the massive sound set to a camera zipping around the room, showing off the engineer’s board, guitars, strings, posters, stomp boxes, scribbled lyrics and, most importantly, the hint of something new.

And, as always, the members of Crazy Horse themselves remain in the shadows. There remains only a hint of their physical presence — guitars, bass, drums, cables, music stands, etc. Largely absent of interviews and exposure, the Horse have worked their best when they’re not expected.

Their greatest moments are, indeed, a collection of instances where Young brought them out when they were least anticipated. The furious ruckus raised on the Rust Never Sleeps tour of 1978 came when Young was experiencing an easy listening victory with his mellow, country-ish record Comes a Time. Their glorious 1990 return on Ragged Glory and the tour that spawned Arc-Weld was on the heels of Young stating that he was done with the group. Again, just last year, Young said that Crazy Horse were on the backburner, perhaps for good.

But this jam, and its elaborately staged and shot video, is not just a signal from Young to his supporters that rumors of a new album (or two) generated in the past are true and that he and the Horse are playing together, but that he’s happy with the direction of the band. Young has picked up Crazy Horse only to drop them again after not being thrilled with the results. This seems to confirm the opposite; he’s feeling the music.

Through means, nefarious or otherwise, I’ve grabbed a version of this to throw on my iPod and carry myself through. I imagine myself listening to this quite a bit through the next few days, using it for fuel as I push myself through projects and moments.

But, for the band, what happens now? The most encouraging piece of this puzzle is that the band is playing, and they sound as good and thrilling as they ever have. Their guitar tones, off-putting for so many, have always brought a primal rush of adrenaline out of a huge portion of his fanbase, this writer included. As for new music, it’s anyone’s guess. Through the video, pieces of paper with song titles, lyrics and chords are shown, some perhaps new songs, and at least two old standards they looked to be covering — “This Land Is Your Land” and “Gallow’s Pole.”

All that can be guaranteed is this piece of music, and its message is simple and clear: The Horse is back.

E-mail Nick Tavares at