At long last, just over 40 years after it was recorded during a single August night in 1976, Neil Young’s Hitchhiker sees an official release. And what a release it is. Packed with known and loved songs, most of which have seen the light of day in one form or another over the years, Hitchhiker is pure, raw Neil– guitar, voice, harmonica, some piano, recorded straight through, excepting a few pauses for, according to his memoir Special Deluxe, “weed, beer, or coke.” Outside of stumbling upon him at some little known roadhouse bar, this is as raw and pure as it gets, and it’s worth rushing out to buy just to hear him roll through an acoustic version of “Powderfinger”. But then there’s the ever-enigmatic “Pocahontas”. The crushing “Give Me Strength”. The searching, wandering artist travelogue of the title track. And “Campaigner,” which draws a straight line from Nixon to our current Oompa-Loompa-in-Chief. Really, though, the pleasure is hearing the album as a whole piece, cover to cover, from the opening “You ready, Briggs?” to the last fading notes of “The Old Country Waltz”. Though the recordings have the feel and charm of demos, the album as a whole has the feeling of a fully realized vision, and you owe it to yourself– and to Neil– to hear it that way.
Hitchhiker is out now via Reprise and available pretty much anywhere you can buy music. Hook your local record store up with a few bucks, and yourself up with a great fuckin’ record.