Opening with the methodical, hard-rocking "Cinnamon Girl"--still one of the singer-songwriter's most-hollered requests in concert--Young's second solo album introduces the cockeyed harmonies and sloppy, chiming guitars of Crazy Horse. His wide swings from soft-spoken country-folk ("Round & Round [It Won't Be Long]") to menacing metal (the punch line to "Down by the River" is "I shot my baby") indicate the multiple personalities in Young's future. His second album of 1969 broadcasts a sincere passion for the peace-and-love '60s (dig the long guitar solos) but also predicts the dark introspection of "Tonight's the Night." --Steve Knopper
Review by William Ruhlmann
Neil Young's second solo album, released only four months after his first, was nearly a total rejection of that polished effort. Though a couple of songs, "Round Round (It Won't Be Long)" and "The Losing End (When You're On)," shared that album's country-folk style, they were altogether livelier and more assured. The difference was that, while Neil Young was a solo effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere marked the beginning of Young's recording association with Crazy Horse, the trio of Danny Whitten (guitar), Ralph Molina (drums), and Billy Talbot (bass) that Young had drawn from the struggling local Los Angeles group the Rockets. With them, Young quickly cut a set of loose, guitar-heavy rock songs -- "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" -- that redefined him as a rock & roll artist. The songs were deliberately underwritten and sketchy as compositions, their lyrics more suggestive than complete, but that made them useful as frames on which to hang the extended improvisations ("River" and "Cowgirl" were each in the nine-to-ten-minute range) Young played with Crazy Horse and to reflect the ominous tone of his singing. Young lowered his voice from the near-falsetto employed on his debut to a more expressive range, and he sang with greater confidence, accompanied by Whitten and, on "Round Round," by Robin Lane. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes, becoming a moderate hit. (Young's joining Crosby, Stills & Nash the month after its release didn't hurt his profile, of course.) A year and a half after its release, it became a gold album, and it has since gone platinum. And it set a musical pattern Young and his many musical descendants have followed ever since; almost 30 years later, he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it.