Acoustic Sounds

Neil Young

Old Ways



Neil Young "Old Ways" Anadisc 200

Label: Mobile Fidelity

Produced By: Neil Young, Ben Keith, and David Briggs

Engineered By: Gene Eichelberger

Mastered By: Ken Lee

Lacquers Cut By: Ken Lee

By: Michael Fremer

August 29th, 2023


Vinyl CD

Originally Seen In:


Neil Young's Long-Neglected Mid-80s Country Album

From the archives: Mobile Fidelity's ANADISQ 200 reissue of Neil Young's 'Old Ways'

(This review originally appeared in The Tracking Angle Magazine Issue 7, Spring 1996.)

Bryan Ferry covering Gogi Grant’s dramatic “The Wayward Wind” has always been one of my musical dreams, but Neil Young does a more than adequate version to open this long neglected mid-80s Young country album. While he doesn’t bring the kind of “camp” to the tune Ferry could, he’s got the spirit right, with cascading strings (17 count ‘em pieces), Waylon Jennings on guitar, and Bela Fleck on banjo backed by a band of professional pickers.

When this record was issued in 1985, country music was the last thing Young fans (or Geffen Records for that matter) wanted to hear. Young had been all over the musical map during his Geffen years, releasing a “techno” album in 1982 (Trans) and a rockabilly one (Everybody’s Rockin’) in 1983.

I don’t know if this country album was the last straw for Geffen, but at some point it sued Young over what it felt was an abrogation of his contractual obligations. They weren’t getting what they thought they’d paid for, more importantly the records weren’t selling. Young’s fans were abandoning him and he wasn’t picking up any new ones.

But as usual, Neil was ahead of his time with this album. Today, “country” is America’s most popular form of musical entertainment. That most of it isn’t really country is beside the point—I mean Garth Brooks and most of that other glitzy Nashville horseshit? The Eagles are more authentic than most of that packaged plastic. Must calm down.

Look how Neil called the future here: after his “Wayward Wind” epoch, he preaches we must “Get Back To The Country,” vocalizing with Waylon Jennings, but he sees what’s coming down the pike, cautioning in the next tune, “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” that he’s talking about real cowboys and real country music, not the sequin wearing, cocaine snorting ones showing up in the movies at the time. Young duets on the tune with that notorious cannabis cowboy Willie Nelson.

Anyway, while this album was ignored and even reviled when it was first issued, it comes as a more than pleasant surprise to rediscover in 1996—especially in the much improved sound Mobile Fidelity gives us here. The original, mastered by Denny Purcell in Nashville (Geffen 24068) isn’t bad, but the all analog recording gets a whole new life on this ANADISQ LP.

Ironically, Young’s honky-tonkin’, recorded in Tennessee (with one live track from Austin City Limits) captures more of Nashville’s true spirit than 90% of the aforementioned slick stuff being pumped out of there today. Young penned tunes like “Are There Any Real Cowboys,” “Old Ways” and the tender “My Boy” ring true, and stand with any of his better songs. Even the surreal science fiction of “Misfits” kind of works.

The duets with Waylon and Willie, the fiddles, banjos (played by Young on one track), pedal steel and the other acoustic instruments are all superbly recorded—sweet and wideband—with the exception of perhaps a bit too much vocal processing on a few songs. 

Of course the record sounds richer (especially the strings) and better focused, with cleaner high frequency transients (jingle bells, etc) and better defined bass, but the CD sound is also superb with much to recommend it.

Overall, this relaxed set, full of good feelings and superb playing, is a project more than worthy of resurrection on vinyl, and I applaud MoFi for bringing it to our attention once again.

One last note: while MoFi’s physical presentation—the heavyweight gatefold and expensive paper stock—is of the highest quality, whoever is doing the artwork prep and printing, while getting the color balance correct, is losing incredible amounts of detail and resolution in the production. Individual blades of grass clearly visible on the original have been turned to mush. Picky, picky, picky.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: MFSL 1-252 ("ANADISQ 200” LP) / UDCD 663 (gold CD)

Pressing Plant: Mobile Fidelity

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 200 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: Analog Tape

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-08-30 03:20:13 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Thanks for this review. Your description of the sound makes me want this... I have an original and I do dig this LP when I'm in the 'crooning mood'. While this review tempts me, I must resist!

  • 2023-08-30 03:49:46 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Awww jeez, I remember this review from the 90's! lol...