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June 15, 2010

Book Notes - Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang ("Neil Young's Greendale")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Neil Young's Greendale surprised me. Though I am a huge fan of Neil Young's music, his Greendale album disappointed me, so a graphic novel inspired by that concept album held little promise, but this book is the rare adaptation I enjoyed more than the original.

Gorgeously drawn by Cliff Chiang, Neil Young's Greendale has the look of a classic comic with its distressed pages and muted colors, and is one of the most beautiful graphic novels I have seen in years. The book focuses on Sun Green, a young environmental activist, and Josh Dysart manages to embrace the socially relevant spirit of the Greendale album while making the story all his own.

Comic Book Resources wrote of the book:

"This book is a perfect blend of concept, story, and art. All of the creators are among the tops in their area of contribution to this project, and all of them bring their best effort to this piece. Chiang's art is breathtaking, Stewart's colors are magnificent, and Klein's lettering is solid. Dysart's interpretation of Young's story comes through as a journey for the reader to be immersed in. It's not a quick read, but it shouldn't be. Like Young's original album, this story appears intended to evoke the reader to take a good look around himself (or herself) and determine what can be made better and how."

In their own words, here is Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang's Book Notes music playlist for their graphic novel, Neil Young's Greendale:

Joshua Dysart: This is a tricky assignment. Obviously, what I mostly listened to while writing this book was Neil Young's Greendale. Some might say I listened to it obsessively. But for this list I wanted to purposely avoid tunes from the source material in the hopes of jamming even more dimension into the work. So this list is really more of an exercise in assigning music to scenes that have already been written. I can't say why everything on here is classic rock. That's just what came to me as I started giving it some thought. I guess that's what I want the book to feel like. Something classic, from when rock n' roll cared more about politics and people.

Cliff Chiang: Like Josh, I also listened to a lot of Greendale during the creation of the book, so I see this list more like a movie score. These are songs I hear while the animated film plays in my head.

1. Sun Dreams of Natural Calamity and Destiny: "After The Gold Rush" - Neil Young

JD: Melodic and sad. Young dreams, along with his piano and a horn, about Mother Nature on the run.

2. Sun Meets Earth: "When You Dance I Can Really Love" - Neil Young

CC: When Earth Brown first lays eyes on Sun, he's literally entranced. There's something wild, passionate and earnest about this song, and I can see a raucous bar band jamming this out in Jon Lee's, the only bar in Greendale.

3. Man in the Red Suit Appears on the Streets of Greendale: "Run Through The Jungle" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

JD: The haunting driving darkness and apocalyptic vision of John Fogerty's masterpiece could not be more perfect for when "The Devil's on the loose".

4. Jed Kills Officer Carmichael: "Can't Find My Way Home" - Blind Faith

JD: Really I see this as Jed's song in general. There's something beautiful but sad and lost about Sun's cousin Jed, and the gentle wailing and acoustic lament of this song fits him to a tee.

5. Sun Visits Jed in Jail: "Needle and the Damage Done" - Neil Young

CC: By this point, Jed's a shell of a man, a long series of bad decisions. No song better captures the hopelessness and tragedy of his situation.

6. Sun & Earth Go Dancing: "Last Goodbye" - Jeff Buckley

CC: Sun, trying to escape the darkness all around her, wants to go dancing with Earth more than anything. It's not going to end well, but Buckley's wistful tune offers some consolation as the couple spends their last night together.

7. Grandpa's Funeral: "Long May You Run" - Neil Young

CC: Many of you probably know that this is Young's tribute to his first car, a black hearse he nicknamed “Mort”. The song and the car were a great inspiration for this scene. I drew Mort leading the funeral procession, followed right behind by Young's electric car, LincVolt.

8. Sun Hallucinates: "Into The Mystic" - Van Morrison

JD: I cannot think of a more perfect song for Sun's drug induced tumble into visions about her fellow Green Women. Soothing, calm and spiritual, it's filled with a sense that when consciousness transcends fear... it becomes boundless.

9. Sun's Protest: "Rockin' In The Free World" - Neil Young

CC: Chained to a mammoth statue of a golden eagle, Sun gives the Greendale residents a hell of a wake-up call. What other song could you choose to show her newfound strength and anger?

10. Sun Leads the Green Army to Alaska: "Woodstock" - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

JD: Joni Mitchell's masterpiece was turned into an act of Rock N' Roll reportage by CSN&Y and has all the attitude and force that I associate with a gathering of amazing human beings (billion year old carbon all) in search of a better future

11. Sun Stands Defiant Before the Oil Platform: "I Can See For Miles" - The Who

JD: Heavy and beautiful at the same time, Pete Townshend affirmation of individual power is a sonic manifestation of Sun standing stone-eyed against the very kind of behavior that's causing seemingly endless irreparable damage in the Gulf of Mexico at this very moment.

Joshua Dysart, Cliff Chiang, and Neil Young's Greendale links:

Cliff Chiang's website
Joshua Dysart's website
excerpt from the book (at Comics Alliance)
excerpt from the book (at Huffington Post)
excerpt from the book (at Techland)

A.V. Club review
Comic Book Resources review
Comics Bulletin review
Crave review
Ich Liebe Comics! review
iFanboy review
Newsarama review
Portland Mercury review

Comic Book resources interview with Joshua Dysart interview with Cliff Chiang
Newsarama interview with Cliff Chiang
Newsarama interview with Joshua Dysart

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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