Monday, January 4, 2010

Ten: Ten Men Working

Neil Young & the Bluenotes: Ten Men Working


After closing the '70s with the Rust Never Sleeps/Live Rust one-two punch, Neil spent most of the '80s confounding even his most ardent supporters with a bewildering array of genre experiments: country-rock, electro-pop, rockabilly, pure country, synth-rock, and finally, in 1988, the blues. Many of the experiments were meant to annoy David Geffen, whose label Neil signed to in the early '80s, because Geffen wanted him to sound "more like Neil Young". But for his big-band blues album, This Note's for You, (backed by the nine-piece Bluenotes) Neil had finally found his way out of the Geffen contract and back to his old home, Reprise. And for me, it's the experiment that works the best. No, he will never be mistaken for Muddy Waters. But it's a fun album, and no song exemplifies that joyful energy more than the statement-of-purpose opening track, "Ten Men Working".

Neil liked the song enough to rechristen the band "Ten Men Working" after Harold Melvin (of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes fame) initiated legal action preventing Neil from using the Bluenotes name. Of course, by the following year, he had left the blues behind for a hard-rock power trio billed as "Neil Young and the Restless", perhaps the most aptly named of all his bands.

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