By Brian Ives
Neil Young has offered up the first taste from his upcoming album, A Letter Home, which will be released on Jack White‘s label, Third Man Records. His cover of Bert Jansch’s “Needle of Death” was recorded in Third Man’s “record booth,” a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Gram machine that cuts songs directly to vinyl.
Young has just posted a video of the song, in which he is seen from a few different angles recording in the booth, with the lyrics to the song in full view in front of him. Watch the performance below.
At the end of the performance, Young is seen exiting the booth, saying, “That’s a heavy song, a very heavy song.” It’s noteworthy that, while Third Man’s website says that the Record Booth records “up to 2 minutes of audio,” the song clocks in at about five minutes.
“Needle of Death” is a song that’s had considerable influence on Young; he admitted in a 1992 interview with Rolling Stone (via Thrasher’s Wheat) that he copied the guitar part for one of his own songs: “I was especially taken by ‘Needle Of Death,’ such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good… And years later, on [1974’s] On The Beach, I wrote the melody of ‘Ambulance Blues’ by styling the guitar part completely on ‘Needle Of Death.’ I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it.”
Jansch, a solo artist and former member of the revered British folk band Pentagle, died in 2011; one of his final tours was opening for Young.
A Letter Home will be available on all formats, vinyl, CD and mp3 (and of course, Pono), on May 27.