Neil Young's Essential Albums: 'After the Gold Rush,' 'Zuma,' More - Rolling Stone
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Neil Young’s Essential Albums

50 legendary years of following his cranky muse wherever it takes him — from hippie folk to country rock to grunge and beyond

Neil Young

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Rolling Stone’s Album Guides survey an iconic artist’s discography, breaking down their finest LPs into three tiers: Must-Haves, Further Listening, and Going Deeper. We also recommend key tracks from other releases under the heading Spare Parts.

In 1975, at the age of 30, Neil Young prophesied the next five decades of his career. “You gotta keep changing,” he told Rolling Stone‘s Cameron Crowe. “Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I’d rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that’s the price, I’ll pay it. I don’t give a shit if my audience is a hundred or a hundred million. It doesn’t make any difference to me. I’m convinced that what sells and what I do are two completely different things. If they meet, it’s coincidence.”

That attitude helped him produce one of rock’s most impressive catalogues — from commercial blockbusters such as Harvest to cult-favorite oddities, like Trans. He follows his cranky muse wherever it takes him, including spontaneously ditching a tour with his old friend Stephen Stills via a terse goodbye note in 1976 and walking out on a Buffalo Springfield reunion tour when he got bored 35 years later. But we love him just the same.

He’s also one of the few rockers of his generation who still makes music as uncompromising as that of his youth. His voice sounds incredible live. With his ambitious Archives site, fans are more involved than ever — just this month, he politely asked subscribers to select his next project for release from the vault.

As Young prepares to enter a new decade with no signs of stopping, we survey his vast body of work, from the all-time classics to everything else. Listen to the playlist here.

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