"In my senior year in high school (1975) I was a huge Neil Young fan. I had all his solo albums, had seen him in concert several times, knew virtually every one of his tunes by heart, and I even looked like the guy. When I heard that he had released a new album, "Tonight's the Night", I hustled down to the local Tower Records, forked over my ...,and rushed home to give it listen. I hated it. "What," I asked no one in particular, "is this mess?" Neil's lack of polish and affectation were always part of his appeal, but "Tonight's the Night" was too much. Neil and his band were so loaded they could hardly play, Neil singing was so bad it was laughable, and the whole record sounded like it had been recorded in a barn. I dismissed the thing as some kind of joke and filed "Tonight's the Night" away on the shelf. I then put on "After the Gold Rush" and thought about what I could have bought with that ... I wasted on "Tonight's the Night".A few weeks later I was telling a friend how bad "Tonight's the Night" was and pulled it off the shelf to play for him. But, on second listen the album didn't sound as bad as I had remembered. "Come Baby, Let's Go Downtown" was a nice rockin' tune, "Roll Another Number" was an amusing druggie tale, and "Tired Eyes" seemed like an sad, even pretty, ballad. "Hmmm," I thought "Maybe this isn't a joke after all." I still didn't think it was a good album, it sure wasn't "Harvest", but I decided to give it a few more listens before I wrote it off for good.So over the next few weeks I listened to "Tonight's the Night" again. And again. And again. And again. I listened to it drunk and I listened to it sober. I listened to during the day and I listened to it at night. I listened to it loud and I listened to it soft. I just couldn't stop listening to it. It replaced "Live at Fillmore East" as the album that was constantly on my turntable. It was absolutely hypnotic. "Tonight's the Night" sure wasn't "Harvest"; it was far better. It was some strange kind of Canadian, whiteboy, folk blues that reached right inside you, in the same way that Robert Johnson did, or Roscoe Holcomb did. It was the real thing, and it didn't matter if Neil couldn't carry a tune to save his life, or that the steel guitar was out of tune; it was pure, unaffected emotion that could send chills down your spine. And the songs! Each one was gem and I soon knew them all by heart (and I still do). Needless to say, my initial impression of "Tonight's the Night" underwent a complete revision. I now thought it was a bloody masterpiece and I've had no reason to change my mind since then. Although I no longer listen to "Tonight's the Night" obsessively, or even frequently, every time I put it in the changer it still sounds . . . "fresh"? "unique"? "original"? "raw"? All that and more. It always sounds like "Tonight's the Night". It's still the real thing."
Convulsive, raw, and underrated
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 02/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The long history of rock and roll is filled with many incongruities. One of the more SEEMING incongruities has already been identified by several reviewers (I didn't read them all, so this may be old hat) and that is the punk feel in this mostly accoustic album. But this shouldn't be surprising. In a 1977 interview, Johnny (Rotten) Lydon stated that Neil Young was a major influence on him, and that TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT impressed him the most. Neil returned the compliment in "Hey, Hey, My, My" with the lyric: "The King is gone but he's not forgotten/This is the story of Johnny Rotten".Obviously, the influence wasn't musical. The influence wasn't in attitude, either: much of TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT howls with pain and despair, NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS..." growls with anger and mockery. The true influence writhes in the convulsions, the hoarse screams, the rawness of the emotions. There's a fury and an outrage in these albums that is unsuppressed. It's little wonder that Kurt Cobain would be the logical heir of this legacy. (Another seeming incongruity: Kurt Cobain's suicide note contains Neil Young's lyric "It's better to burn out than to fade away". And Neil wrote the sorrowful "Sleeps with Angels" about Cobaine's suicide.)Nearly thirty years later the raw wounds still fester; the album has withstood the proverbial test of time. I won't go through each song individually because I would just be repeating what other reviewers have said. But it is worth repeating how powerful this album is."
Bill R. Moore | Oklahoma, USA | 05/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hearing this record for the first time was one of the scariest and strangely moving experiences of my life. Hearing Neil positively moan out the straight-narrative vocals of the opening title track - as if each word sung is causing him physical pain - gives one a glimpse of what it must feel like to hear a man sing from the other side of the grave. The history of this album is well-documented: it was written and recorded in 1973 after the heroin-related deaths of two of Neil's associates, guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. As on the more recent Sleeps With Angels - where Young deals directly with Kurt Cobain's suicide - Neil tackles his subject matter head on here, in a surprising, shocking, almost nearly disturbing way. One hears of turning grief into art - art as therapy - well, there are few finer examples of it in all of music than here. Neil directly unloads his grief and sorrow and mixed up and confused feelings into his music. The title track is a direct narrative about Berry "Bruce Berry was a working man/He used to load that Econoline van" and sets the course for the rest of the album's songs - dark, introspective, direct, brooding, and ragged. The lyrics and music supporting them have a generally dark vibe throughout; absolutely hopeless tunes such as Borrowed Tune ("I'm clmbin' this ladder/My head in the clouds/I hope that it matters/I'm havin' my doubts") abound. The lone upbeat, more harmonius song here - a live Come On, Baby, Let's Go Downtown with vocals from Whitten - sticks out like a sore thumb amongst this musical graveyard of heartbreak and pain. Other songs seems to tackle the subject almost directly - such as Tired Eyes ("He tried to do his best/But he could not"), even reflecting Neil's own situation, of which he admits, in Borrowed Tune "I'm singin' this borrowed tune/I took from the Rolling Stones/Alone in this empty room/Too wasted to write my own." The performances are extremely raw and obviously not intended to be polished or kept up. They are all undoubtedly first takes - you can hear instruments that are out of tune, notes that are out of place, even the musicians speaking back and forth to one another (not to mention a static hum.) Clearly, this album was not made for fun. It was made out of necessity. Such is the essence of true art."
One of the best albums of any kind...ever
Justin Mclaughlin | Los Angeles, CA | 06/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've scoped a couple of reviews that seem to give this album a reluctantly positive review. Y'know: "It's pretty good, but no masterpiece. Just an average album by Neil. Pretty good." And so on...It's safe to say anyone who thinks this album is merely average should probably avoid other "dark nights of the soul" like Exile on Main Street, L.A. Woman, etc. Matter of fact, keep listening to Harvest and CSNY and you should be okay. It's probably not safe to go into the dark.Seriously, this is Neil's best one by a long shot. He opens up a vein and lets it bleed all over the vinyl, naming names, sounding like he's on the verge of suicide, a drug OD, or both, and it's a beautiful and touching and powerful testament to the bleak era of post-Woodstock, post-Vietnam America. This album is perfectly constructed, remarkably played (dig that Nils Lofgren solo on Speakin' Out....astonishing), and the one record that I can call both beautiful and terrifying. So don't listen to the naysayers. It has less to do with the album's quality and more to do with their middle of the road tastes. This is ESSENTIAL."
Dark Night Indeed
Brent Evans | Rockhampton, Australia | 04/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brooding on the drug deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and CSNY roadie Bruce Berry,Neil Young and the remainder of Crazy Horse take the listener on an unplanned trip to the dark side of the city on TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT.This is a unpolished,shambling primal scream;Young offers no apologies and no cures.He simply buries his friends the best way he knows;with a dose of raw power.He is too wasted to write eloquently;he admits as much on BORROWED TUNE.TIRED EYES warns us not to become accustomed to the horror that sometimes lurks behind the corner.ROLL ANOTHER NUMBER is a sly dig at the hippie beliefs than had by 1975 seemed stale.LET'S GO DOWNTOWN (a live duet recorded a few years earlier with Young and Whitten)reminds us of what was lost.NEW MAMA is a song dedicated to Neil's wife and baby.TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT is the tale of Bruce Berry.This was recorded in 1973;after which Neil played some diasterous dates in London,playing this material. "Welcome to Miami Beach.Everything here's as cheap as it looks",was the motto for that tour and it could have been the same for this period in young's life.Two years later,the same record company who refused to release TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT the first time had the choice of it or a collection of semi-country songs called HOMEGROWN. Thankfully for us,they chose the former.Rightfully so,this album is ranked in the top 100 albums of all time.It remains a top ranked release in the Young canon."