Apr 212023
goodnight sunrise rockin in the free world cover

Released in 1988, “Rockin’ in the Free World” was Neil Young‘s biggest hit in over 15 years and has become one of his most covered songs. It captures much of what made classic Young great: abrasive, distorted guitar, acerbic political lyrics, and a seemingly iconoclastic desire to perform those same lyrics in a completely different way. Much like with the iconic “Hey Hey, My My” and Rust Never Sleeps, Young actually recorded a softer acoustic version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” to help bookend its accompanying album Freedom.

Fellow Canadians Goodnight Sunrise have been performing together since 2011. They’ve recorded two albums and a few EPs and are currently touring ahead of their first album in seven years. As part of this new project, they’re recorded a cover of the electric version (the famous version) of “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Goodnight Sunrise’s cover starts off with a low, pulsating synth, as far removed as just about anything from Young’s proto-grunge sound. Lead singer Vanessa Vakharia’s voice comes in with an echo, and pulsating throb that again, sounds nothing like the original. But, only 20 seconds in, they abandon this red herring of an intro and play the song straight.

Their version is more polished than the original – almost everybody’s is – but still has a fair amount of grit, especially in the guitar solos. Young is infamous for his almost regressive soloing technique but guitarist David Kochberg only hints at that in the first solo. As the song continues, he employs more parts and more technique. The final climactic solos create a classic rock rave up more in line the Eagles than Crazy Horse.

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