Neil Young: Zuma – [Record 176]
Zuma is the seventh studio album by Canadian musician Neil Young, released on Reprise Records in 1975. Co-credited to Crazy Horse, it includes “Cortez the Killer,” one of Young’s best-known songs. It peaked at #25 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified a gold record by the RIAA.
1. Don’t Cry No Tears.
2. Danger Bird.
3. Pardon My Heart.
4. Lookin’ for a Love.
5. Barstool Blues.
1. Stupid Girl.
2. Drive Back.
3. Cortez the Killer.
4. Through My Sails.
Background: The death of Danny Whitten affected Young greatly, and left the Crazy Horse band without its leader and songwriter. He went out on tour in late 1973 with a band dubbed the Santa Monica Flyers, composed of the Crazy Horse rhythm section of Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina along with Nils Lofgren, who had played on Crazy Horse’s debut album, and Ben Keith, this group recording most of the tracks for what would be his Tonight’s the Night album. After the 1974 stadium tour with Crosby, Stills & Nash and another abandoned attempt at the second CSNY studio album, Young formed a new version of Crazy Horse in 1975 with guitarist Frank Sampedro slotted in alongside Talbot and Molina. This line-up first appeared on this album, and has remained stable to the present day.
Content: Zuma was the first album released after the famed Ditch Trilogy, comprising the albums Time Fades Away, and On the Beach, and Tonight’s the Night. Young wrote songs in Zuma during his time living on Sea Level Drive in Malibu, California. “Through My Sails,” originally entitled “Sailboat Song,” derives from the aborted late 1974 sessions with CSNY, featuring the quartet on vocals.
The melody and lyrics of “Don’t Cry No Tears” are partially derived from “I Wonder”, a song Young wrote in high school which appeared in his Archives in 2009. Young has claimed during a show in 1996 that he’d also written “Cortez the Killer” in high school while suffering “Montezuma’s Revenge.” The song ends with a fade out because the original cut stopped abruptly due to recording tape running out before the band had finished playing, and a final verse Young had written was not recorded. Young’s reaction to hearing of this was, “I never liked that verse anyway”, and it has never been performed live.
“Danger Bird” interpolates sections of an unreleased song relating to Young’s breakup with Carrie Snodgress called “L.A. Girls and Ocean Boys”, specifically the line “‘Cause you’ve been with another man / there you are and here I am.” Lou Reed once told an interviewer that he felt Young had become a “great guitarist” during this period, specifically citing “Danger Bird” as an example. “Pardon My Heart” was originally intended to be released as part of Homegrown.