How many songs by Neil Young will I include in my "Best Songs" series of blog posts? Lots, for sure.
Let's take one that is sort of second tier for starts, "Cortez the Killer". It echos my love song theme from my earlier post here: http://bparkinson.blogspot.com/2010/03/ive-been-working-hard-on-fish-and.html
You can listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m4H77z3fJE
Big themes here, the destruction of an entire civilization. Neil spends three minutes establishing the musical theme before he utters a word, a big intro for the big theme. And it works. He picks his words well:
He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.
On the shore lay Montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.
And his subjects gathered 'round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.
And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.
But at the end it's a love song, and the transition is perfect and jarring. Other will argue that it isn't a love song, that it refers to Montezuma's wife, but it a love song to me.We go from human sacrifice to a simple lament for for love lost but still there; and isn't love human sacrifice sometimes? When we care for others, we offer ourselves so that other can go on...
And I know she's living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can't remember when
Or how I lost my way.
As in most things, it's the simplicity that compells.
This song makes it into my top 100 best songs for the laconic but epic guitar work. A seven minute song with one minute of singing where neither the vocals nor the guitar bores you. Sentimental lyrics. Wonderful.