Certain Songs #1259: Neil Young – “Comes a Time”

Album: Comes a Time
Year: 1978

Recorded at Woodland Studios, Nashville on November 2, 1977

After the hodgepodge that was American Stars and Bars, Neil turned in one of his most consistent — and long underrated by me — albums, the country-folk Comes a Time.

While not quite as epochal as Harvest, Comes a Time was buttressed by Nicolette Larson’s top ten hit single yacht rock cover of “Lotta Love,” the residual effects of which helped make it his best-selling album in over half a decade. Back from the ditch! He’s even got a goofy smile on the album cover, the only time in his entire discography that ever happened.

Larson was also all over Comes a Time proper, no more so than the title track, which was essentially a duet between the two of them, with most of the musical heavy lifting done by an army of acoustic guitars, Rufus Thibodeaux’s fiddle and a full-blown string section.

Comes a time when you’re drifting
Comes a time when you settle down
Comes a light, feelings lifting
Lift that baby right up off the ground

Forty years later, it’s clear that Neil has two default settings — country-folk gentleman and electric rock madman — and no matter what crazy shit he does in between, he’s always gonna land on one of them eventually. And while it was the latter that initially attracted me, over the years I’ve realized that both are equally important, because there’s no reason to deny a song as elemental as “Comes a Time.”

Oh, this old world keeps spinning round
It’s a wonder tall trees ain’t layin’ down
There comes a time

In the middle of the song, where you might expect a guitar solo, or a harmonica solo, instead the string section just plays the melody of the verse with the fiddle as a counterpoint, and while it skirts on being cheesy, it’s also incredibly lovely, and leads into the coda: Neil and Nicolette harmonizing on the title over and over until the fade.

“Comes a Time”

“Comes a Time” solo acoustic, San Francisco, 1978

“Comes a Time” live at Farm Aid, 1986

“Comes a Time” live at the Bridge School Show, 1997

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One Response to “Certain Songs #1259: Neil Young – “Comes a Time””

  1. “Country-folk gentleman” tonight in Boston!

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