Neil Young - Trans
There were many problems with 'Trans' when it was released. Critics savaged Young, not understanding one little bit him and his 'Trans' album. Geffen were dismayed, having just signed Neil for a million dollars per album. They'd eventually sue Neil for making albums that weren't characteristic of Neil Young albums!! But, that's another story. As for 'Trans', the producer David Briggs hated it. Neil wasn't entirely satisfied himself, either. 'Trans' includes two or three songs intended for an entirely different album altogether, a regular band album. It's from those sessions the opening 'Little Thing Called Love' comes from. David Geffen apparently heard what Neil was upto and was under-whelmed, thinking that Neil could do more with the songs. And, true enough, 'Little Thing Called Love' is hardly the best thing Neil has ever done. If only David Geffen had known what Neil was cooking up in his studios on the side, he'd probably have kept his mouth shut. For yes, the first Kraftwerk influenced, vocoder drenched Neil song arrives with 'Computer Age'. Neil had got a fascination with toy trains, with all aspects of new technology - due to his continuing search to make his sons life better. To discover ways of his son communicating with the outside world. The vocoder, disguising neil's vocals - was one aspect of this. Another reason Neil chose to use this hideous device was that he wanted to see what would happen if he made a bunch of recordings that didn't sound like him. Well, he managed that. The problem with the 'computer' songs here are most definitely the vocals, by the way. Neil has said in subsequent years that critics didn't understand what he was trying to do with 'Trans'. Neil hardly helped them understand however, by clouding the vocals, making the lyrics indecipherable. Neil has said of 'Transformer Man' for instance, that it was a song for his son. That if we read the lyrics we shall understand. Well, making the lyrics comprehensible and audible when we are actually listening to the song might have helped, just a little.
The songs contain lots of mentions of trains and technology. Neil never sounds like himself, but both 'Computer Age' and 'We R In Control' do contain nice musical melodies. As for 'Transformer Man', the key song here. Well, it's actually something quite startling and special. Neil sounds like a lost and lonely alien trying to get across these emotions to an uncomprehending human race. The melody is gorgeous, the song is gorgeous. 'Computer Cowboy' sounds like a regular Neil Young Crazy Horse type of song put through a vocoder and computer blender and vomited out again. 'Hold On To Your Love' contains actually decipherable lyrics. A shame this song was chosen to feature a production enabling us to actually hear Neil's words, cos they aren't much worth hearing, for this song, anyway. 'Sample And Hold' is another song inspired by Neil's computer and toy train and technological fascination. It's quite scary sounding. One thing we have to give the guy credit for. No other artist of Neil's era, Sixties? No other artist attempted anything quite as new as 'Trans'. Neil tried to break new ground. Sure, he may not have quite managed to do that because of the various flaws the album contains. It helps if you want to break new ground if people actually listen to the record you've created without completing missing the point and hating it in the process! Oh, and yeah. Before I go. Neil re-creating the Buffalo Springfield song 'Mr Soul' as a computer-age, vocoder drenched techno track probably wasn't going to ever be the best way to please his old fans. In a word, it's truly bizarre.
Little Thing Called Love / Computer Age / We R in Control / Transformer Man / Computer Cowboy / Hold on to Your Love / Sample and Hold / Mr. Soul / Like an Inca