Reviewed on this page:
Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - After The Goldrush - Crazy
Horse - Harvest - Time Fades Away - Tonight's The Night - Zuma -
Comes A Time - Rust Never Sleeps -
Live Rust - Landing On Water -
Life - This Note's For You - Freedom - Ragged Glory -
Unplugged - Sleeps
With Angels - Mirror Ball - Broken Arrow - Greendale - Prairie Wind -
Living With War - Chrome Dreams II
In the last couple of years Neil Young has become the Ol' Gramps of grunge music, trotting out on stage to prove to the skeptics that real rockers never get old. But it's a whitewash: Young hasn't just been running around forever making the same loud rock records - he's metamorphosed from one style to another over a career that spans three decades, trying so hard to be innovative that he's occasionally confused his own fans. His nasal, idiosyncratic tenor vocals, occasionally oblique and sarcastic lyrics, and rudimentary, but extraordinarily gritty and compelling lead guitar technique don't go over well with everyone, but they do mark him as a true original.
In the early 60s Young kicked around on the Ontario and upstate New York rock circuit, working for a while with a very young Rick James; he then moved to California and by 1966 was, with Steve Stills, a leader of the influential Buffalo Springfield. By 1969 he'd begun a solo career and also joined Crosby, Stills & Nash, appearing with them at the Woodstock festival. He quit the band after making just one studio album with them (Deja Vu), and then occasionally rejoined Stills and the others as the years went by. During the 70s and 80s he made stabs at country-western, blues, industrial music, synth pop, and even rockabilly, often working with the band Crazy Horse (which he'd discovered and renamed in 1969). He's only returned to his high-powered roots-rock during the past few years. It's not very likely that you'll enjoy everything he's done, but he's well worth getting to know.
We have reviewed one of Young's shows from his 2000 tour on our concerts page.
The Neil Young web site is one of the best rock fan sites on the web - give it a look. (JA)
Crazy Horse - Ralph
Molina (drums); Billy Talbot (bass); Danny
Whitten (guitar), died of drug overdose 1971; Frank "Poncho" Sampedro (guitar) replaced Whitten.
The Stray Gators - Kenny Buttrey (drums); Tim Drummond
(bass); Ben Keith (steel guitar). Jack Nitzsche
(piano, slide guitar) appears occasionally.
Neil Young (1969)
- Solid all the way through. Young's intense performance holds one's
interest even on the ragged, neurotic, over-long solo acoustic number "Last Trip To Tulsa." The material
has a pleasantly familiar sound, deviating from the Buffalo
Springfield's formula only in that Young was no longer able to
utilize Richie Furay's fantastic harmony
vocals. A good example is "The Loner," the album's most memorable radio hit and perhaps the most direct and up-tempo rocker. He also uses some "Broken Arrow"-like orchestration on "The
Old Laughing Lady" and "I've Loved Her So Long," where his plaintive vocals and gentle acoustic guitar mesh well with Jack Nitzsche's edgy string arrangements.
- Solid, yes, and he's already got his act figured out, but the
tunes just aren't as interesting as his best Buffalo or later solo work:
"Tulsa" embodies the self-conscious weirdness and conversational tone of
Young's idol Dylan, but without a guiding
structure or overall point, it's just a long shaggy-dog story. There's
nothing bad about the record, and the mellow tone throughout is
pleasant, but better records like Again and After The Gold
Rush make this basically redundant. (DBW)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
- The record opens with "Cinnamon Girl,"
quintessential Neil that manages to pack a killer riff, clever
lyrics, vocal harmonies, one of his patented monotone solos
and a feedback denouement, all into less than three
minutes. There are also two extended solo vehicles - "Down By The
River," and "Cowgirl In The Sand" - which still pack as much punch
as they did in 1969: Young's playing is idiosyncratic, not
technically complicated but with a feeling impossible to duplicate;
Danny Whitten's rhythm guitar is chunky, angular, and brilliant;
the bass and drums aren't adventurous but they stay right in the
pocket. The slower numbers, though, tend to drag ("Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)"),
and the midtempo singalongs aren't among his best (title track).
Although the three loud cuts have all become AOR classics, this
album didn't hit the Top 40 until after Déjà
vu became a megahit. (DBW)
- Young cut this too fast after doing his first solo record,
perhaps because he was so thrilled with his new band Crazy Horse
(originally the Rockets; Young renamed them). As a result, he goes
beyond merely minimalistic production and allows himself
gratuitous, albeit head-banging instrumental sections ("Down By The
River"; "Cowgirl In The Sand"; etc.). He
just didn't have enough ideas this time - some tracks waver
endlessly between just two or three chords, like the unbearably
dreary acoustic moaner "Round & Round (It Won't Be Long [NOT])." So
despite the fact that the good stuff is not just good, but
virtually Neil's best work, the rest is often carried just by
Young's ominous sound and the band's solid sense of rhythm. (JA)
After The Goldrush (1970)
- His first attempt at a concept album, Neil balances
masterful hard rockers ("Southern Man," "When You Dance") with
beautiful acoustic songs like "Don't Let It Bring You Down," and
the title track. The band is Crazy Horse plus Nils Lofgren on piano
and occasionally Greg Reeves on bass; the arrangements are simple,
with none of Young's earlier studio trickery or multi-part mini-symphonies. He ends each side with brief piano-led melodies you
wish would go on longer ("Cripple Creek Ferry," "Till The Morning
Comes"). The love songs are tender ("Birds") and sorrowful ("Only
Love Can Break Your Heart"), and even when the lyrics are obscure
the melodies get right to the point ("Tell Me Why"). The only
clinker is the Don Gibson cover "Oh Lonesome Me." (DBW)
- Wilson's right, Neil is close to his peak here. It's brilliant all the way through; I even like the Don Gibson cover. My only gripe is that it's a bit stylistically narrow. (JA)
Live At Massey Hall 1971 (rec. 1971, rel. 2007)
A solo acoustic set, including some Buffalo Springfield ("On The Way Home") and CSNY ("Helpless") material and several tunes which wouldn't come out until Harvest ("Old Man").
Crazy Horse (Crazy Horse: 1971)
If you ever wanted to hear a Neil Young record without Neil Young, this
is the place to go. Young gave the band two tunes and matched them with
youthful guitarist Nils Lofgren and crusty pianist/producer Jack
Nitzsche, who in turn brought in Ry
Cooder - Nitzsche's acquaintance from Rolling
Stones sessions - to lay on some slide guitar.
It's still mostly Danny Whitten's show; he sang most of the leads and
wrote half the record (sounds like he stole the "Dirty Dirty" riff from
David Bowie). But Lofgren and Nitzsche also
contributed a few numbers - Nils' phase-a-thon "Beggars Day" and
foot-stomping "Nobody" are plenty of fun, and Nitzche's languid,
country-bluesy "Crow Jane Lady" sucks you right in despite being ruined
by his lead croak. So it's no surprise that all the talent adds up to an
imaginative and entertaining end product, with a lot of grungey rock and
gritty country-blues that treads close to both Young and the Stones. And
while Whitten's not as distinctive a singer as Young, he's got the same
kind of ragged, knowing moan, and he's never hard on your ears. It's a
damn shame that Whitten overdosed within a few months of this release.
- Sold a zillion copies, and packed with major radio hits that deserve
another listen ("Heart Of Gold," Neil's only #1 hit ever; "Old
Man," which also hit the Top 40; "The Needle And The Damage Done").
However, some of it's surprisingly second-rate. Crosby, Stills and
Nash contribute backup vocals that do little more than muddy
Young's sound ("Alabama"; "Words (Between The Lines Of Age)"), and
Jack Nitzsche oversees a couple of vapid, overblown mini-epics cut
with the London Symphony Orchestra ("A Man Needs A Maid"; "There's
A World"). Casual fans might do better to get the key tracks on a greatest hits or live record. Except on the LSO numbers and the solo live recording of
"Needle And The Damage," the backing band is the Stray Gators.
- Well, I like "Alabama" (a blistering attack on racism that inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd's good ol' boy anthem "Sweet Home Alabama"), and the lyrics on "Maid" are intriguing, at least. But I agree that there are significantly better Young albums in this period. (DBW)
Time Fades Away (1973)
The start of Neil's first anti-commercial period.
Eight new songs recorded live, six of them from the famously disastrous Spring 1973 tour with the Stray Gators: Neil tried to get the Nashville vets to play in Crazy Horse's sloppy idiom - perhaps in tribute to the recently departed Whitten - with the result that audiences who turned up to cheer "Old Man" and "Heart Of Gold" were greeted with ear-splitting tunes like the nine-minute "Last Dance."
Never released on CD, this has duly acquired a mythic reputation among fans, but really it's quite dull: confused and disorganized like
Tonight's The Night, but with even weaker compositions: "Don't Be Denied" is a rambling country-rocker; "Journey Through The Past" is a weak knockoff of "After The Goldrush," and so on. And the poor recording quality and performance drag down the one outstanding tune, "L.A.," with a classic grimy riff and an ironically plaintive refrain.
By recording time, drummer Buttrey had quit the tour in disgust, so Johnny Barbata filled in; Nash and Crosby add barely audible vocals and guitar to three tracks.
On The Beach (1974)
I have this LP somewhere; I'd better dig it up. (DBW)
Tonight's The Night (1975)
Young apparently wrote and recorded this to process his feelings after
Whitten's death, but had no intention of releasing it until friends
pressured him. It's raw even for Neil, gloomy and angry - kind of his
There's A Riot Going On. Critics
often call this Young's masterpiece, but I can't agree: it doesn't have
any of the magical riffs, curiously satisfying lead guitar, or lovely
melodies that are Young's hallmark. What it does have is spleen directed
at the drug-filled rock and roll lifestyle, and a childlike sense of
betrayal. That's cool and everything, but can't make up for the thinness
of much of the material (by-the-numbers country tune "Lookout Joe," the
aptly-named "Borrowed Tune," a rewrite of "Lady Jane"). One live cut co-written by
and featuring Whitten ("Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown") is noisy and
ragged, but not in a cathartic way - Whitten's talent had already been
compellingly demonstrated on Crazy Horse, and this anarchic tune
doesn't make his loss more keenly felt. The chorus on both versions of
the title tune are affecting, and there's some good crunching rock and
roll ("Roll Another Number") but it shouldn't be near the top of your
Young shopping list. (DBW)
Recorded in 1973. (JA)
When Young's in touch with his muse, he makes making great music sound
so damn easy. This time out, backed by the reconstituted Crazy Horse, he
struggles a bit: the 7-minute "Danger Bird" is an attempted anthem that
never quite gets going; "Don't Cry No Tears" is a typically crabby rant
that sounds like a rewrite of "Cinnamon Girl"; "Lookin' For A Love"
overemphasizes its country roots. He does come through with some great
hard rockers ("Drive Back," "Barstool Blues"), the bizarrely-arranged
"Stupid Girl" (not the Stones tune)
and the moody guitar showpiece "Cortez The Killer." Plus a CSNY reunion
on the gentle album closer "Through My Sails." Lots to like, though he's
capable of much better. (DBW)
A greatest hits compilation, ahead of its time in terms of including a great deal of rare or unreleased material. (DBW)
American Stars 'n' Bars (1977)
Features Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. (DBW)
Comes A Time (1978)
A mellow, tuneful country-rock record.
Much of the material is down-tempo country balladry ("Human Highway"; the painfully clichéd "Field Of Opportunity"), and Young has Nicolette Larson sing harmony on almost every track.
She's a tasteful, understated singer in the Emmylou Harris mold, so the formula mostly works ("Peace Of Mind").
Some of the material is a little sappy; witness the strings on the 2/4 hillbilly slow dance title track and the plodding acoustic ballads "Already One" and "Four Strong Winds," or Young's earnest, sentimental "Lotta Love," another version of which was concurrently a hit for Larson.
And practically the only high volume is provided by a sloppy, grinding, blues-based torch song ("Motorcycle Mama").
But the writing is strong, and it's a relief to hear Young recycle the classic Springfield sound on tracks like "Look Out For My Love."
Nothing essential here, but it's a solidly entertaining effort with a pleasant, focused tone.
Produced by Young, Briggs, steel guitarist Ben Keith, and Crazy Horse saxophonist Tim Mulligan.
The band is Keith, Tim Drummond (bass) and Carl Himmel (drums), with guests including Crazy Horse, J. J. Cale, pianist Spooner Oldham, fiddler Rufus Thibodeaux, and a huge horde of acoustic guitarists. (JA)
Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
Young's best collection of song material in the late 70s, interestingly presented as a set of live recordings with the crowd noises mixed out, the acoustic and electric numbers segregated on each side of the disc, and the key tune - his blistering Sex Pistols eulogy "Hey Hey, My My" - bracketing the album with two very different versions that both were radio favorites.
The acoustic Side 1 is stronger, with the witty, impressionistic "Pocahontas" being a standout, but "Ride My Llama" being catchy and short, "Sail Away" (with a Nicolette Larson duet vocal) serving as a fine example of his country-western ballad formula, and "Thrasher" measuring up well.
Meanwhile, the wrenchingly stark acoustic arrangement of "My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)" is a good intro to the set, and the second side's leadoff track ("Powderfinger") is just mellow enough to bridge the transition - it's also one of the strongest compositions here.
Unfortunately, Crazy Horse's sputtering, leaden sound on the next couple songs ("Welfare Mothers"; "Sedan Delivery") comes off as poorly rehearsed metal instead of the righteous country-punk Young was trying to invent.
But by the time "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)" staggers through to its glorious, feedback drenched-conclusion, you'll find yourself agreeing that rock 'n' roll is here to stay.
Co-produced by Young, Briggs, and Tim Mulligan; Carl Himmel and Joe Osborne back Young on guitar on the acoustic side. (JA)
Live Rust (1979)
A live two-record set (available on one CD) recorded with Crazy Horse. The track list is very predictable, covering both acoustic ("Sugar Mountain," "Comes A Time," "The Needle And The Damage Done") and loud rock ("When You Dance I Can Really Love, "Cortez The Killer"), though some huge hits are missing: "Southern Man," "Old Man," "Heart Of Gold." He also includes two versions of "Hey Hey My My," but the only real surprise is the band rendition of "Lotta Love," the huge MOR hit Young donated to Nicolette Larson. It's one of the best set lists in rock history, and the band is suitably loud, but I sense an unusual lack of intensity from Neil, which makes all the guitar showpieces rambling instead of thrilling ("Tonight's The Night"). (DBW)
Hawks & Doves (1980)
Neil's industrial album. I have it, and I think it's a mixed success, with a bunch of heavy-handed synth experiments that overuse a mechanical voice distortion effect, plus a few songs in his usual style.
Still, though, the songwriting and performances are better than on most of his other 80s records. (JA)
Everybody's Rockin' (1983)
This was Neil's rockabilly album, recorded with the Shocking Pinks.
Old Ways (1985)
Neil's country album.
The same year, Young contributed vocals to all-star Canadian charity single "Tears Are Not
Enough," though I can't pick him out on the record. (DBW)
Landing On Water (1986)
Another abrupt stylistic shift, as Young experiments with head-banging distorted guitars, aided by co-producer Danny Kortchmar ("I Got A Problem"); clattering pseudo-industrial drums, courtesy of Steve Jordan; and wacky layers of sometimes annoyingly simplistic synth lines, perpetrated by all three of them. There's no bass player, and no guest musicians apart from the San Francisco Boys Chorus (!), which adds some creepy backing vocals to a couple tracks. It's all so inbred that it's practically screaming for a second opinion - Young can't seem to tell the difference between "unique" and "entertaining" here.
But there's a silver lining: the songwriting. Every tune is cluttered with snappy hooks, a thumping beat, and chant-inducing refrains, and there's a lot of pleasant smiley-faced funk as well ("People On The Street"). The up-tempo "Pressure" sounds like an A-side all way, and it's far from the only ear-catching effort - even "Hippie Dream," a lyrically obnoxious repudiation of the 60s, is musically irresistable. You might not have the patience for all the looniness here, but give it a try. (JA)
An incredibly frustrating lapse of taste that sets off grating 80s synth and embarassingly clumsy, self-righteous, jingoistic lyrics ("Long Walk Home") against sporadic bursts of unfettered musicality.
You'd expect more from one of Young's sporadic Crazy Horse reunions, but the band seems to have almost no effect on his out-of-touch idiosyncrasies.
All of the slow stuff is victimized by Young's synth attacks: a dull, repetitive country ballad ("When Your Lonely Heart Breaks"); a plodding, clichéd love song ("We Never Danced"); an aggravatingly moronic New Wave thrash-rocker ("Around The World"); and worst of all, a strident, politically ambiguous current events rant ("Mideast Vacation").
On "Long Walk Home," he mixes a gorgeous CSNY-style harmony and cornball synth-string arrangement and gratuitous sound effects.
The only solid entertainment is the ballad "Inca Queen," which has a melody and acoustic guitar part in his classic late 60s style - but he even manages to ruin that with distracting synth washes, some corny "Native American" affectations, and an eight-minute running time.
At least the record's middle does sport a trio of forgettable flat-out rockers (the Clash-like "Too Lonely"; the juvenile, feedback-drenched sing-along "Prisoners Of Rock 'N' Roll"; "Cryin' Eyes"), which points down the road to Freedom.
Co-produced by Briggs and Young, with no guests. (JA)
This Note's For You (Young:
- Neil spent the Eighties trying on different styles; this
is his Chicago blues experiment, horns and all. You might ask who
needs another blues record? And I agree, except that he's got
a really good horn section, and it turns out that after all these
years of playing cranky distorted rock leads, he's a fine,
sensitive blues guitarist: check out the hit title track, and the
ballad "Twilight." But he clutters the album with too many ho-hum
lyrics ("Married Man") and routine melodies ("Can't Believe Your
- Okay, so who does need another old-timey blues record? Not me; I find this entire mail-order package forgettable and generic. When the horn section isn't playing smarmy faux 60s Chicago blues, it's playing jazzy faux 50's pop ("Can't Believe Your Lyin'"). Even most of the lyrics are wimpy blues love-song cliches, the title track and the generic political rant "Life In The City" being the major exceptions. Crazy Horse fans will note that Ralph Molina shows up on the sluggish "One Thing," and Frank Sampedro grooves along throughout. (JA)
Neil's not happy about the state of modern society, and he wants you to know it. Almost every track is a social comment ("Someday"), and even the love songs are all about choice and freedom ("Hangin' On A Limb"). Fortunately, he makes all this heaviness more palatable by drawing on all the musical styles he spent the decade exploring: country ("The Ways Of Love"), blues ("Eldorado"), even industrial-meets-metal ("Don't Cry"), and he succeeds in every genre. He also gets in plenty of his characteristic noisy guitar solos ("No More").
The one cover tune, "On Broadway," fits Young's mood perfectly, and his grunged-out arrangement makes the song sound as if he had written it. The desolate hit "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World" is present in two versions; the more amusing is the solo live recording from Jones Beach, where the braindead audience cheers the chorus without detecting any of Young's irony. Like the previous record, this was produced by Young and Niko Bolas, and Poncho Sampedro, Ben Keith and Linda Ronstadt all appear. (DBW)
Ragged Glory (1990)
Reunited with his old backing band Crazy Horse, Neil returns to
solid riff tunes, lead-rhythm-bass-drums arrangements, and extended
solos. It works: the best tracks ("Fuckin' Up,"
"Love To Burn," "Love And Only Love") stack
up against the best work he's ever done. The enviromentalist
"Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" interestingly accompanies a capella
vocals with guitar distortion. He ends almost every song with
lengthy guitar feedback, which is cool and everything, but it may
get on your nerves after a while. And sometimes the lyrics are
underdeveloped ("Country Home") or just clichéd ("Days That
Used To Be"). (DBW)
Live with Crazy Horse; a fairly predictable selection of his
loudest hits. The Arc disc is a feedback collage. (DBW)
Harvest Moon (1992)
Be careful not to confuse this with Young's classic Harvest
from 20 years earlier. It is, however, a self-conscious attempt to
follow up on that record, with many of the original Stray Gators
returning to back Neil. (JA)
I guess Young saw all the critical acclaim going out to 60s rockers making acoustic MTV specials and said, "Hey, I can do that." So he served up a set of his mellower tunes: some big hits ("Helpless," "The Needle And The Damage Done"), some recent stuff ("Harvest Moon," "From Hank To Hendrix"), and a bunch of songs from neglected 70s albums ("Pocahontas," "Look Out For My Love").
As you'd expect, everything's solidly written and performed, but it's not at all eye-opening, because most of the songs are performed close to the originals ("Mr. Soul" being the major exception, and one of the disc's weaker tracks), and he'd already released at least two live versions of "Needle," for example. You won't hate this, and if you can get it real cheap it's a nice way to get acquainted with a few songs you probably don't know, but it's far from essential. (DBW)
Sleeps With Angels (1994)
- Neil celebrates his return to hipness with an
ambitious collection, accompanied by Crazy Horse, that embraces
rockers, country and gentle folk-pop. Unfortunately, both lyrics
and melodies are often pedestrian, as with his country song about
inner city violence ("Driveby") and the interminable "Change Your
Mind." Standouts are the haunting, distorted title track and the
hard rocking "Piece of Crap" -- the consumer anthem we've always
- At least "Change Your Mind" starts out like one of his great early 70s quasi-atonal rockers... the record is classic Neil Young, but not necessarily very good Neil Young. Fans looking for nostalgia will find it too dissonant and noisy - "Piece Of Crap" is punk rock plain and simple. Everyone else will find the record self-involved and sloppy, full of sprawling garbage like the improvised "Blue Eden." Neil does get some points for authenticity and attitude, but that's about it. (JA)
Mirror Ball (1995)
This sold like hotcakes, and made a lot of critics' top ten lists, largely because the backing band is Seattle grungsters Pearl Jam. They don't complement Neil's sound too well: the record is cluttered with rhythm guitars, and all the hotshot drumming is distracting. But it is amusing to hear Pearl Jam's derivative pentatonic guitar solos next to Neil's sputters and squawks. The lyrics are impressionistic and often obscure ("I'm The Ocean"), many of the songs go on forever ("Peace And Love"), and he overuses the feedback ending gimmick. But there are several tunes with his satisfying crunch ("Act Of Love," "Downtown," "Scenery"), and he gets good mileage out of the
After The Goldrush device of following the loudest tunes with soft song fragments. (DBW)
Dead Man (1996)
A movie soundtrack, mostly Neil unaccompanied, with some spoken word stuff by actor Johnny Depp. (DBW)
Broken Arrow (1996)
Well, you can't accuse the guy of being lazy. A brand new album with Crazy Horse, containing a
bunch of very long songs that lack his usual sloppy catchiness ("Big Thing," "Slip Away").
In this light the unvaried guitar-bass-drums arrangements start to get on your nerves.
The worst offender is a live cover of the Jimmy Reed blues "Baby What You Want Me To Do":
it drags on for eight minutes without energy or even decent guitar soloing.
There is a lot of good playing by Neil ("Loose Change"), and the rhythm section is as solid as ever,
but overall you get the impression that this time Young was content to release mere product. (DBW)
Year Of The Horse (1997)
A twelve-song live CD with Crazy Horse. (DBW)
Silver & Gold (2000)
A new studio album with veteran players like Jim Keltner, Duck Dunn, and Ben Keith, apparently in his usual folk/country/rock style.
It's weak, with a lot of listless tunes - he tries and fails to pick up the pace on the very lame tribute song "Buffalo Springfield Again," which is the only interesting moment, and that's not saying much.
Keith co-produces and guests include Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. (JA)
Road Rock, Vol. 1 (2000)
Another live album, recorded on September 18 and 19. Based on the September 28 concert Alroy has
reviewed, we aren't holding out much hope for this one.
Are You Passionate? (2002)
I fell for the hype on this one: it's a concept album about a family in a fictional small town, and has gotten great press,
but it's another batch of incredibly long - two songs are over twelve minutes, and four others are over seven -
ludicrously repetitive, uncatchy songs along the lines of Broken Arrow. Young also takes his unrehearsed,
warts-and-all aesthetic to an extreme, leaving in more blown notes ("Carmichael") and way-off-key singing ("Bandit") than ever.
Most of the songs are by Crazy Horse minus Sampedro, and his rhythm guitar might have detracted from the boredom;
Young hauls out the acoustic on "Bandit."
Despite the long running times, the only notable soloing is on the second-to-last track, "Sun Green," which is
unfortunately also where he starts yelling through a megaphone.
Lyrically Young takes tough stands, from pro-love and affection ("Falling From Above") to pro-Mother Earth
("Be The Rain"). Strictly for the aging hippies who convinced themselves that Love And
Theft was a masterpiece.
My CD comes with a bonus DVD of Neil performing the songs solo on acoustic guitar; improbably, it's even more longwinded
and boring, thanks to endless between-song narration.
Prairie Wind (2005)
Unless I've missed someone, Young is the easy winner of the Fall 2005 Dinosaur Races: he hasn't gotten the hype Macca and the Stones have, but his album is much more tuneful
the record may be a sleeper because the tunes are so low-key (the gentle lament "Falling Off The Face Of The Earth").
Mostly in a country-rock vein ("No Wonder"), recorded with old hands Ben Keith (who produced with Young), Spooner Oldham
and Emmylou Harris ("This Old Guitar"); the rest of the band is Rick Rosas (bass)
and either Karl Himmel or Chad Cromwell (drums). Lyrically it's mostly a reflection on the open sky, loss and love
("Here For You"), which he keeps from sliding into maudlin sentimentality through sober observation and an unreliable
narrator (e.g. the title track's "tryin' to remember what my daddy said" refrain).
Meanwhile, the piano-based hymn "When God Made Me" is an understated indictment of religious intolerance that's worthy of
comparison to "Imagine."
Young put in a lot of effort on the recording side as well,
in a break from the Dylanesque "mistakes equals authenticity" spirit of Greendale:
there are tasteful string arrangements ("No Wonder"; "It's A Dream"), rare since the "Man Needs A Maid" days;
Keith's slide and pedal steel are well recorded;
and horns crop up on the relatively high-energy "Far From Home."
The weak points are minor: the title track is too long, sure, but it's about a minute too long rather
than ten; the nostalgia can be excessive (the Elvis tribute "He Was The King"),
but at least it's pleasant.
I've seen the accompanying film, Heart Of Gold, with the same band performing live in Nashville.
The first half is devoted to songs from this album, and the second mostly to a modest selection of oldies ("Old Man"; "Harvest Moon"; "Needle And The Damage Done"; "Four Strong Winds").
The contrast shows just how much more literal and less interesting Young's writing has become (cf., "I Am A Child" or the haunting solo coda "The Old Laughing Lady" vs. the ham-fisted left-wing sop to Creationism "When God Made Me").
He would never have recorded anything as silly and clumsily topical as "No Wonder" back in the day.
"It's A Dream" is sweet, the understated duet with Harris on "This Old Guitar" is touching, and I've only heard these tunes the one time, but I didn't notice anything really special here.
Although it's very likely a step up from Silver & Gold, I have to wonder about rating it on the same level as his first three solo albums.
That said, Young's voice hasn't deteriorated, the players are very sharp, and his stage patter is charming. (JA)
Living With War (2006)
There are a lot of things I love about this record: I love that Neil dashed off a full ten-song album in one week-long fit of anti-war pique, and forced it on his record company.
I love that Neil is old and cranky enough that he doesn't care if there's a Dixie Chicks-style backlash against songs like "Let's Impeach The President." I love that Neil is forever young and naïve enough to still believe that one distorted guitar and one quavering voice can change the world.
What I don't love is the record itself, which is extremely short on ideas, both politically and musically. Basically, Young has two things to say - the Iraq war was based on misinformation from the Bush administration, and that war hasn't gone so well - and they're not exactly Earth-shattering revelations.
In writing so many songs so quickly, he recycles quite a bit: "Shock And Awe" borrows structure and melody from "Hey Hey My My"; "Flags Of Freedom" is essentially an inferior rewrite of Dylan's "Chimes Of Freedom." "After The Garden" is just a generic Crazy Horse rocker, but it stands out here, while the defensive concluding choral rendition of "America The Beautiful" is a crashing bore.
There's one great song, "The Restless Consumer," where Young manages to tie the war to conspicuous consumption and his own dissatisfaction to existential consumer angst.
Chrome Dreams II (2007)
You have to admire Young's stamina, at least: on this tongue-in-cheek "sequel" to an unreleased 1977 album, he cranks out two more marathon tunes, the 14:34 "No Hidden Path" and the still longer "Ordinary People" (an 80s outtake with the Blue Note Horns).
Stylistically there's something for everyone, from gentle folk ("Beautiful Bluebird") through country ("Boxcar") to Rust-like grunge ("Dirty Old Man"), but he can't disguise the forgettability of the underlying compositions ("The Way," a trite piano piece with a children's chorus).
There's one classic track, though - "Spirit Road," a Crazy Horse-style rocker with CSN-y harmonies - and Neil's first solo on "No Hidden Path" is wonderfully turgid.
The band is Keith, Rosas and Molina; produced by Young and Bolas.
Fork In The Road (2009)
Odes to Neil's new electric car.
Le Noise (2010)
Just Neil and Daniel Lanois. (DBW)
With Crazy Horse, covers of ancient tunes like "Oh Susannah" and "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain."
Psychedelic Pill (2012)
Neil's first album with Crazy Horse in at least a couple of weeks. They sound much the same as ever, and most of the lyrics are equally nostalgic (the 27-minute opener "Driftin' Back"). It's all so familiar, in fact, that my attention wandered even during the better tunes ("Walk Like A Giant") - the non-phased mix of the title track is a classic, but I don't feel drawn to relisten to anything else on the album.
Everybody knows this is nowhere.