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Flashback: Neil Young’s ‘Decade’ Album Released 30 Years Ago

Neil Young
Reprise Records

In a way, Neil Young’s ‘Decade’ – the three-LP, career-spanning retrospective that came out on October 28, 1977 – was rock’s first box set.

Before ‘Decade,’ which gathered songs from Young’s early days with Buffalo Springfield through his most recent solo album, compilations were basically greatest-hits sets that collected a dozen or so of an artist’s most popular cuts. The ‘Decade’ set wanted to tell a story. In essence, it’s a musical biography.

Starting with ‘Down to the Wire,’ a previously unreleased Buffalo Springfield song (how many best-of albums do that?), ‘Decade’ traced Young’s development over his first 10 years. In addition to key album tracks (‘Down by the River,’ ‘Cortez the Killer’) and singles (‘Cinnamon Girl,’ ‘Heart of Gold’), the album included songs Young recorded with both Crazy Horse and Crosby, Stills & Nash, live tracks and several unreleased songs and mixes.

‘Decade’ remains Young’s sturdiest compilation, even though it covers less than a quarter of his career. Some of the songs aren’t available anywhere else, like a live B-side version of ‘Sugar Mountain,’ an edited ‘Soldier’ (from the otherwise dismal ‘Journey Through the Past’) and a more scorching take of the ‘American Stars ‘N Bars’’ favorite, ‘Like a Hurricane.’

Young handpicked the songs included on ‘Decade,’ which, for the most part, chronicled every step of his career at that point (all but a couple of his solo albums were represented). His current ‘Archives’ series – which so far has yielded only one collection that stops at 1972 – will eventually replace ‘Decade’ as Young’s definitive history. But for 30 years it’s served as the most meticulous document of his most fertile period.

Next: Top 10 Neil Young Love Songs

Watch a Live Version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’

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