Neil Young has always been an absurdly prolific recording artist. In the 1970’s, he was grinding albums out like sausages. 1977’s American Stars ‘n Bars was one of Neil’s stronger efforts from that era. Additionally, it’s got that country rock thing going for it and it uses ‘n in the title. Why I like that, I’ll never know.
Some folks find the album disjointed since it was recorded over a few years BUT it contains a string of terrific songs, and I’ll forgive a lot if the songwriting is strong. Here’s how William Ruhlman describes it at AllMusic.com:
Neil Young made a point of listing the recording dates of the songs on American Stars ‘n Bars; the dates even appeared on the LP labels. They revealed that the songs had been cut at four different sessions dating back to 1974. But even without such documentation, it would have been easy to tell that the album was a stylistic hodgepodge, its first side consisting of country-tinged material featuring steel guitar and fiddle, plus backup vocals from Linda Ronstadt and the then-unknown Nicolette Larson, while the four songs on the second side varied from acoustic solo numbers like “Will to Love” to raging rockers such as “Like a Hurricane.”
The package for American Stars ‘n Bars lost a lot in the translation to CD. I’ve got the LP somewhere in a box in a closet and while I *should* being willing to dig it out for my gentle readers, I’m not. Ya dig?
To say that the cover is undignified is an understatement. It’s a swell parody of the rock star pomposity that was so prevalent at the time: Henley and Frey come on down. The album art was designed by former child star Dean Stockwell before his 1980’s acting comeback with Blue Velvet, Married To The Mob, and the swell time travel teeevee series, Quantum Leap.
Without further adieu, here’s the album cover:
Now that we’ve left Neil drunk on the barroom floor, we’ll move on to the back cover, which is an artier affair:
The entire album is only available on YouTube in the playlist format, which can be sketchy but what’s a bit of sketchiness among friends?
I’ll give the man himself the last word: “Lyndon Johnson bared his scars, American Stars ‘n Bars.”