Underrated gem by two old friends
Long May You Run has copped a lot of stick over the years, to the extent that today it remains a largely obscure curiosity, even for many Neil Young fans. That Young and Stephen Stills agreed to record an album together is extraordinary in itself, although perhaps not all that surprising, considering that the two of them had played together almost a decade earlier in Buffalo Springfield, a band with so much talent, too much in fact, not to mention conflicting personalities, that the whole thing was destined to explode at some point. The five Young and four Stills tunes for this album were all written separately, which gives the LP a certain compilation feel rather than a collaboration between our two main protagonists.
The album gets off to a good start with the title track, which is perhaps the most memorable, where Neil reminisces over some old car he used to own, in the way others might reflect on a past relationship. Obviously that car meant a lot to him, where he hopes that “The Beach Boys have got you now”, as if wishing his previous automobile was still running and enjoying life, like a real human being. “Make Love To You” is pure Stills, full of bluesy licks and atmospheric organ. Why some critics dismiss this album as little more than a poorly produced and written cash-in is beyond me. Because “Make Love To You” is in itself a fine song. Likewise Young’s “Midnight On the Bay,” another pleasant number which drifts along like a cloud over a Caribbean sunset.
Stills’ “Black Coral” is another pleasant, easy going piece, just like sitting on the beach, watching life come and go. It may be lightweight musically, but enjoyable nonetheless. Young goes through the motions on “Ocean Girl”, a song where he sounds like he simply couldn’t be fucked. The same applies to “Let It Shine”, which is nothing more than a country-rock throwaway and the sort of thing Neil could have sung in his sleep. Thankfully Stills resuscitates the heart with “12/8 Blues (All the Same)”, a somewhat muscular number, built around a funky beat and which includes more than a few mean licks from Stills himself.
On “Fontainebleau” Young unleashes his cynical side while playing some stinging guitar notes that really do add to the whole affect. And it is that guitar which makes the entire thing work, along with Neil’s vocals and what was predominately Stills’ own backing group. It’s a superb song, and one which might not have seemed out of place on “On The Beach.”
We end with the upbeat and Latin inflected “Guardian Angel”, another Stills composition the likes of which I can’t imagine Young even touching much less contributing to. As a song it’s not all that bad, although it certainly can’t compare to the emotional majesty of “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes,” if that was what he was looking for.
Long May You Run is in no way a bad record; in fact I’d say that it’s far better than what many critics say. Stills did later complain that Young predominately wrote his songs off the cuff, thus saving his finest material for Zuma. Mind you, I don’t think Stephen was writing his finest material either. Nonetheless, this LP is an interesting artefact made at a time which no longer exists, and as such will serve as yet another chapter in the highly creative though dysfunctional relationship that existed within CSNY (and if you don’t know who they are then you know little about popular music). I like this album, personally, simply because I’m glad it exists, and has given me memories which might otherwise not have been etched into my subconscious. Memories which can’t be repeated much less replicated except in one’s mind. I guess that’s what music is all about.