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‘Chrome Dreams’: A Track-by-Track Guide to Neil Young’s Newly Unearthed Seventies Album

Sixteen years ago, in 2007, Neil Young puzzled quite a few people when he released a new album called Chrome Dreams II. Only his most devoted followers knew that the title was a reference to Chrome Dreams, an entirely different album he had put together in 1977 before shelving it in favor of American Stars ‘n Bars. The original Chrome Dreams leaked out years later as a bootleg drawn from the ’77 acetate, and many fans felt he had made the wrong choice. “In many ways,” Young biographer Jimmy McDonough wrote in his 2002 Young biography, Shakey, “Chrome Dreams is a more powerful collection than the haphazard collection of American Stars ‘n Bars.”

Unlike American Stars ‘n Bars, which veers wildly from wild Crazy Horse jams to tender ballads and experiments in country rock, Chrome Dreams is largely focused on acoustic recordings. Nearly all of the songs came out over the next few years on American Stars ‘n Bars, Comes a Time, and Rust Never Sleeps, but Chrome Dreams caught them in their rawest, most intimate form. In nearly every case, you’re hearing the song the first time it was captured on tape.

On Aug. 11, Young is finally releasing Chrome Dreams as part of his ongoing effort to clean out his overflowing vault. It may seem like overkill following Hitchhiker, Homegrown, Archives Vol. I 1963–1972, and Archives Volume II: 1972–1976, and many live albums, but there’s still a lot of unheard Seventies music left to be heard on the third Archives box set, which should be coming next year. In the meantime, here’s a track-by-track guide to the lost and now found album known as Chrome Dreams. (We still have absolutely no clue how it connects to 2007’s Chrome Dreams II, though.)


On Aug. 11, 1976, a couple of weeks after bailing on Stephen Stills midway through their Stills-Young Band tour, Young headed into Indigo Ranch Recording Studio in Malibu and recorded an album’s worth of brilliant songs in a single night, completely on his own. “I laid down all the songs in a row,” Young wrote in his 2014 book Special Deluxe, “pausing only for weed, beer, or coke.” One of these songs is the eerie ballad “Pocahontas,” which he revisited in September 1977 at Triad Recording Studios in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, overdubbing additional guitar, harmony vocals, and light percussion on top of the original 1976 recording. The public first got a chance to hear that first take of “Pocahontas” in 2017, when Young released the entire Aug. 11, 1976 session as Hitchhiker. The Chrome Dreams version is identical to that one, minus the intro where Young asks producer David Briggs if he’s ready to start recording.

“Will to Love”

As anyone that’s seen The Last Waltz knows, Young was completely fried by the end of 1976. He spent the bulk of the year traveling the world on tours with both Crazy Horse and the Stills-Young Band, and headed into the studio during rare off time to lay down the new songs that were pouring out of him at a furious clip. By the time he took the stage at the Winterland Ballroom to play with the Band at their Thanksgiving farewell show, he had a nose full of cocaine and a deep desire to head back home and relax for the holidays. The only song he cut that December is “Will to Love,” which he recorded at home in front of a cracking fireplace.

“[It’s] the story of a salmon swimming upstream,” Young wrote in Waging Heavy Peace. “Laden with my own feelings of love and survival, the recording stands alone in my work for its audio vérité style, a live sketch of a massive production number with only the highlights presented, fragments of parts, the sound of the fire, the underwater sound created by vibrato.”

This is the exact version that appears on American Stars ‘n Bars, and it remains the only time in his life he’s sung the song in any capacity, as far as we know, although he teased the possibility of playing it on his 2023 summer tour.

“Star of Bethlehem”

“Star of Bethlehem” is the oldest song on Chrome Dreams, and the only one that stretches back to the 1974 Homegrown sessions. It comes from a time when he was still processing his painful breakup with actress Carrie Snodgress. “Ain’t it hard when you wake up in the morning,” he sings. “And you find out that those other days are gone/All you have is memories of happiness/Lingering on.” This is the same exact recording that wraps up Homegrown, featuring beautiful harmony vocals by Emmylou Harris. He hasn’t played it live since CSNY wrapped up their 1974 reunion tour at London’s Wembley Stadium.

“Like a Hurricane”

Things take a dramatic turn on Chrome Dreams at this point, when Crazy Horse enters the picture for “Like a Hurricane,” one of the only songs on the album that casual fans are likely to recognize. This take was recorded Nov. 29, 1975 at Young’s Broken Arrow Ranch when the group was rehearsing for their Northern California Coastal Bar Tour. Guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro had just joined the band at this point, but he only plays the Stringman organ on this one. Young was on vocal rest at the session and only able to whistle the vocal melody. On Jan. 15, 1976, at the conclusion of the bar tour, he went into Village Recorders in Los Angeles and overdubbed the vocals.

“It’s like a trance we get into,” Young said in 1979 when speaking about “Like a Hurricane.” “But if you try to analyze it — sometimes it does sound like it’s real fast, like we’re really playing fast, but we’re not. It’s just that everybody starts swimming around in circles and it starts elevating and it transcends the point of playing fast or slow. Luckily for us, because we can’t play fast.” The version on Chrome Dreams is identical to the one on American Stars ‘n Bars.

“Too Far Gone”

This beautiful ballad came of loss and regret came to life early in the Zuma sessions. It features Young on acoustic guitar and Poncho on an antique mandolin he barely knew how to play. Young played this song nearly every night of the 1976 tour in his acoustic set, and he brought it back into his live rotation many times throughout the Eighties, but he didn’t officially release it until Freedom in 1989, when he re-recorded it with guitarist Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas, drummer Chad Cromwell, and Poncho back on the mandolin. The guitarist was much more adept at the instrument 14 years later, but there’s an intimacy to the original they simply couldn’t match. That first take was finally heard on Archives Volume II: 1972–1976 in 2020. It appears again on Chrome Dreams.

“Hold Back the Tears”

After five recordings that are available elsewhere in identical form, Chrome Dreams finally gives us something new (at least to those who don’t collect unofficial bootlegs) on “Hold Back the Tears.” Young recut the song in April 1977 with Crazy Horse, Ben Keith, and fiddle player Carole Mayedo for American Stars ‘n Bars, but this is a homemade demo from two months earlier that he created completely on his own. It features an extra verse in the middle: “I call her name out in the night,” Young sings. “I feel for someone/But something still isn’t right/Ah, those streets I hesitate to use/Looking better when life brings on the blues.” He’s played the song many times over the years with Crazy Horse, the International Harvesters, and Promise of the Real, but it’s never sounded this delicate.


Young first recorded his ode to homegrown marijuana at Nashville’s Quadrafonic Sound Studio with studio pros on Dec. 13, 1974, and planned to make it the title track for an album that he wound up shelving until 2020. On Nov. 19, 1975, he recut a grungier rendition with Crazy Horse for Chrome Dreams, but he put that album aside for nearly half a century, too. Following us so far? He then took the Crazy Horse version and placed it on American Stars ‘n Bars in 1977. That’s the one he’s including on this new version of Chrome Dreams, as originally intended.

“Captain Kennedy”

Young didn’t have a lot of great new songs when he entered the studio to begin work on 1980’s Hawks & Doves, or a lot of time to devote to the project, since he was caring for his newborn son Ben. So he reached back to the 1976 Hitchhiker sessions and dug out this ballad about a young sailor headed off to war just like his father, Captain Kennedy. “There’s water on the wood and the sails feel good,” Young sings. “And when I get to shore I hope that I can kill good.” He hasn’t played the song in concert once, and the Hitchhiker session is the only known time he attempted it in the studio. The version on Chrome Dreams is the same one you hear on Hawks & Doves and Hitchhiker.


Eight songs into his acoustic set at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on March 31, 1976, with his crew rolling tape, Young unveiled the haunting piano ballad “Stringman.” He played it again at a couple of Stills-Young Band shows that summer, and three more times in the late Eighties, but most fans had to turn to shoddy bootlegs to hear it. That changed in 1993, when he performed it at his MTV Unplugged special and its accompanying CD release. In 2020, on his Archives Volume II: 1972–1976 box set, he released the 1976 London recording, with additional overdubs he cut at CBS Studios in London the day after the show. That same version appears on Chrome Dreams.

“Sedan Delivery”

Neil Young and Crazy Horse first cut “Sedan Delivery” on May 22, 1975, the same day they created the master recording of “Cortez the Killer” while Sampedro and Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot were high out of their minds on angel dust. Nobody would actually hear “Sedan Delivery” until the Rust Never Sleeps tour in 1978. Punk had hit by that point, which is likely why they play the song at double the speed as the original. A recording of the song from a 1978 show in St. Paul, Minnesota, appears on Rust Never Sleeps, and they’ve been playing the fast version in concert over the past 45 years. The slow, stoned-out “Sedan Delivery” appears on Chrome Dreams for the first time.


Neil Young has played “Powderfinger” 793 times in concert, more than any song in his catalog besides “Heart of Gold” (873 times) and “Cinnamon Girl” (815 times). Unlike those two tunes, “Powderfinger” was never a single and you’re unlikely to hear it on the radio. But there’s a magic to the tragic tale of a naive kid in the mountains who dies “with so much left undone,” which is why it’s become one of his most beloved works. (In fact, we named it Young’s greatest song ever.) The song first surfaced during the legendary 1976 Hitchhiker recording session with David Briggs in solo acoustic form. That’s the one that appears here. And even though we heard this “Powderfinger” back in 2017 when Hitchhiker finally came out, we’re always delighted to have a chance to revisit it.


“Look Out for My Love”

About a month before Neil Young and Crazy Horse flew over to Japan to kickstart their 1976 world tour, they cut the gentle ballad “Look Out for My Love” at Broken Arrow Ranch. “We were having a lot of trouble getting it right and time was dragging on,” Young wrote in Special Deluxe. “It was four or five in the morning and we were still going at it. Probably cocaine was keeping us going when we should have given up. It was during the introduction to the song that the door to the studio playing room opened and Ellen Talbot danced slowly in and pulled down her jeans, showing us all her ass. Well, that was the take! It woke us up and we finally got it.” That’s the rendition used on Comes a Time in 1978, and the one found on Chrome Dreams.

As long as we’re talking about Comes a Time, it’s worth noting that he originally cut the album solo acoustic under the title Oceanside/Countryside before his label convinced him to add additional musicians to the project. Oceanside/Countryside has been sitting in the vault for the past 45 years, but odds are very high we’ll finally see it next year when Archives III hits.

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