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Neil Young's Acoustic Album 'Hitchhiker' May Finally Be Getting a Release

The potential cover for Neil Young's album 'Hitchhiker.' Image: Gary Burden

A mythic unreleased album of acoustic songs from Neil Young may finally be getting a release this summer or possibly early September. Titled Hitchhiker it was recorded in 1976 and has grown to legendary status over the years.

An alleged press release, and album cover by longtime collaborator and concept album art pioneer Gary Burden, surfaced on a fan forum earlier this year. It detailed the album’s name along with a release date of 4 August 2017 on Reprise Records. Another site has given a date of 8 September 2017.

The release also says it will feature 10 acoustic tracks which were recorded in a studio at Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu, California on 11 August 1976. The live recordings feature old and a couple of new tracks. Many of the songs recorded in the session were released between 1976 and 1980 on albums Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks and Doves, Decade, Comes A Time, and American Stars N Bars. Except the titular track “Hitchhiker” which didn’t appear until 2010’s Le Noise.

Neil Young performing onstage with Crosby, Nash, Stills & Young at Wembley Stadium in 1974. © Mick Gold

The release says the session was produced by David Briggs, who’s worked with Young on many of his seminal works, with post production by John Hanlon—another longtime collaborator. The information would tie in with what Young himself has previously said about the album in his 2014 memoir Special Deluxe:

"I spent the night there with David and recorded nine solo acoustic songs, completing a tape I called Hitchhiker.” Young wrote. “It was a complete piece, although I was pretty stony on it, and you can hear it in my performances. Dean Stockwell, my friend and a great actor who I later worked on Human Highway as a co-director, was with us that night, sitting in the room with me as I laid down all the songs in a row, pausing only for weed, beer, or coke. Briggs was in the control room, mixing live on his favourite console.”

As Young references in his memoir, the press release also states that the songs “were recorded in a single session, the resultant performances are breathtaking and passionate. The simplicity of a single voice and guitar captured here are as pure and powerful as the creator intended with only Young and Briggs in the room at the time of recording. The version herein of ‘Captain Kennedy’ has certain raw spontaneity compared to the slightly gentler version that would eventually surface on Hawks and Doves in 1980.”

Neil Young playing onstage in 2014. © Paolo Brillo

The alleged press release also mentions the two new songs noting, “Perhaps the most noticeable jewels in the crown of Hitchhiker are the two previously unreleased tracks that have remained in the vaults since 1976: ‘Hawaii’ a soaring ballad and unlike anything else Young had recorded at the time. Side one closes out with ‘Give Me Strength,’ which would be occasionally performed live in the mid-Seventies but now available here for the first time and may well be considered one of Young’s best long lost gems.”

Here's he full track listing for Hitchhiker.

1. Pocahontas
2. Powderfinger
3. Captain Kennedy
4. Hawaii
5. Give Me Strength
6. Ride My Llama
7. Hitchhiker
8. Campaigner
9. Human Highway
10. The Old Country Waltz

And check out the video for single "Hitchhiker" from album Le Noise, below.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these iconic Neil Young images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.