Neil Young has announced plans to resurrect his lost 1982 LP Island in the Sun and finally share it with fans, although he has renamed it Johnny’s Island. “[It] includes a majority of unrelated tracks including ‘Big Pearl,’ ‘Island in the Sun,’ and ‘Love Hotel,’ plus others you may have heard before,” Young wrote on his official website. “It’s a beautiful record coming to you soon.”
Young recorded the album in May 1982 at Commercial Recorders in Honolulu, Hawaii, with a cross-selection of musicians from all eras of his career, including Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, Buffalo Springfield bassist Bruce Palmer, Stray Gators pedal steel player Ben Keith, Santa Monica Flyers guitarist Nils Lofgren, and CSNY percussionist Joe Lala.
Young biographer Jimmy McDonough wrote that the songs were “mellow in the extreme: lightweight love songs and odd acoustic numbers” in his definitive Young biography Shakey. “The most out-there was ‘Big Pearl,’ a South Seas love story complete with faux Hawaiian guitar courtesy of Ben Keith’s steel.”
The LP was originally planned as Young’s first release as part of a multi-album deal with Geffen. Midway through recording, David Geffen flew out to Hawaii to hear his progress. “Geffen thought it was OK, but he didn’t think it was good enough,” Young told McDonough. “[He said], ‘Neil, you can do more with these songs. Keep going.'”
The advice caused him to go back to a series of experimental, vocoder-driven songs he had written the prior year. And, in the end, he centered the album, Trans, around those tunes, but sprinkled in a handful of more traditional songs from the Hawaii sessions like “Hold on to Your Love” and “Like an Inca.”
But the majority of the Island in the Sun songs were never released in any form and it went down in history as just another lost Neil Young album. That will finally change when Johnny’s Island comes out. It’s part of an ambitious slate of archival Young records in the works, including the 1990 Crazy Horse club gig Way Down in the Rust Bucket (out February 26th), the Eighties rarities collection Road of Plenty, and the 2019 Promise of the Real live album Noise and Flowers. He’s also working on a Bootleg Series of famous concerts, including Carnegie Hall 1970, the Rainbow Theater 1973, and the Bottom Line 1974.
Finally, an album of new songs is also in the works. “I have started a new album,” he wrote in response to a recent fan letter. “It’s solo. I’ve been waiting a long time.”