June 18, 2024

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A Great (and Unknown) Neil Young Song: “Mr. Disappointment”

In this day of digital downloads, YouTube and music-sharing it seems the album (or “LP”) has gone the way of the dinosaur. Music fans are simply scanning websites, cherry-picking their song selections and moving on to the next site before they even have a chance to listen to the tune they just downloaded. This revolutionary approach to obtaining music has replaced the days when music fans would purchase an album of typically ten to fourteen songs from a given artist and in the process uncover musical “gems” hiding somewhere in those tracks. “Mr. Disappointment”, from Neil Young’s 2002 release Are You Passionate? is one of these buried treasures.

Canadian Singer/Songwriter Neil Young made his initial splash with the bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Since setting out as a solo artist Young has made musical explorations into swing, electronic music, 50’s style, and grunge (to name a few.) Young’s 26th studio album Are You Passionate? represents his foray into soul music featuring Booker T and the MG’s in addition to Young’s band Crazy Horse. While many of the tracks are soul-inspired the tune “Mr. Disappointment” jumps off the collection as a Neil Young classic.

“Mr. Disappointment” opens with the slow 2/4 tempo ala by Bob Dylan on his recent work (i.e. “Mississippi”, “Shooting Star”.) This rhythmic “pocket” and groove is the perfect canvas for Neil’s mellow, grunge-inspired electric guitar intro which we later learn is the melody for the song’s chorus. But what is truly captivating is Young’s vocal approach. Again, very reminiscent of recent Dylan as the song’s verses are essentially spoken rather than sung. The opening line sets the mood and tone of the song: “Where did all the feelings go? What about that happy glow? Was that so long ago, when we were first in love? I didn’t feel the change, everything was still the same. And when that moment came, I didn’t know.”

In the chorus Young changes from spoken-word to his trademark high, nasally, tenor singing voice and sadly sings: “I’d like to shake your hand, Disappointment. Looks like you win again, but this time might be the last…”

The song moves between verse and chorus juxtaposing the spoken-word with Young’s singing and in-between lies Young’s heart-breaking, Les Paul-toned guitar riffs. His guitar solo three quarters of the way into the piece is as beautiful as any solo Young has ever played.

From a songwriter’s standpoint, Neil Young’s “Mr. Disappointment” is among the most compelling and honest songs in Young’s catalogue. However, it is Young’s performance of this tune that makes it completely unforgettable. Surf on over to your favorite music website and check it out. But bring the Kleenex.