Neil Young and Crazy Horse
A few years ago, I had a CD player in my car and I decided I’d listen to as many new-to-me albums a month as I could find. In Goodwills, in record shops, in libraries. I got to listening up to 50 albums a month, of modern and classic material. Well a friend of mine told me that I might want to listen to Neil Young, and that he had a crazy amount of albums. So I decided to listen to one Neil Young record a month. They were easy to find, particularly at the library.
As Neil Young comes out with his 41st studio album, Barn, and his 14th with Crazy Horse, I’m reminded of those days driving with Neil Young in my CD player. For as prolific as he is, he’s always been one to lay his finger on the pulse of the everyman and make musicians like myself remember that it just takes a couple good chords and a sweet melody to get your point across. In his storied career, Neil Young has taken on some grand themes and concepts—the oil industry, the war mongering of America, the freedom and equality of people throughout the world—alongside simple love songs and farm boy ruminations. And this album is no different.
It starts with the poetic picture of “Looking through a wavy glass window / in this old place by the lake.” “I see nature makes no mistake,” he concludes over Crazy Horse’s rare acoustic stylings. He talks about “honkers flying low above the waves” and “the lightness in your stare.” It’s easy, listening to Neil Young, especially after listening to a number of his albums, just to get lost in his whine and somewhat predictable arrangements, to lose the profundity of his song writing. But it is always there, if you really listen.
He is like a Bob Dylan or a Paul McCartney, a bottomless fount of song and poetry, and this album has some of his best songs yet. The climate crisis aware song, “Human Race,” which talks about “the children of the fires and floods” and our race against world catastrophe. “Who’s gonna tell / The children of destiny / That we didn’t try to save the world for them?” Neil Young has never shied away for calling people to task in one breath, and singing about the beauty of the human heart in the next. It’s an epic song that could soundtrack the child movement to stop climate change right now. And might, knowing Neil Young’s philanthropic history.
One of the sweetest and most compelling love songs I’ve heard from Neil Young, especially considering his enduring relationship with Darryl Hannah, who is going to be turning these songs into a film in the coming months, “Tumblin’ Thru The Years” is a look at life, with and without love. “It’s a complicated thing, this life / If I wasn’t here with you / Tumblin’ through the years without our love.” The piano is simple and sweet, and his melody memorable.
Crazy Horse play their faithfully loud arrangements on songs on the record, but it’s a surprisingly toned down album with this group of rockers. You get your rock fix, but you also chill in good Young form, throughout. It’s another batch of impressive original tunes from the crew and brings me back to my days listening to Neil Young songs, famous and obscure. It will be interesting to see which songs rise to the top with this album. Perhaps the last song, “Don’t Forget Love,” a rumination on the power of love in bright and dark times alike. For the Neil Young fan, this album is a treat and for the uninitiated it is yet another introduction to a poetic soul able to put words to the simple and complex realities of life in the twenty first century. To write a good song, pure and simple.
Order Barn by Neil Young HERE
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