wed 08/07/2020

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Colorado | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Colorado

CD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Colorado

Friendships fade and the planet burns, but the Horse plough on

Neil Young’s prolific, patchy output rejects the very notion of major releases, though only a major artist would be given so much rope. His thirtieth album of the century (new or archive) still stirs anticipation as his first with Crazy Horse in seven years, with Nils Lofgren back in the band he last passed through in 1971, in place of the retired Frank “Poncho” Sampredo. They crank up unsteadily in the first seconds of opener “Think Of Me”, like an old jalopy startled awake.

The trademark Horse sound soon stretches “She Showed Me Love” past 13 minutes, as feedback flies in slow-motion from Young’s proto-grunge guitar, supported by Lofgren, and pushed on by Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina’s unsteady, unstoppable rhythm section. The sheer weight given to the guitar as an entity and end in itself marks Young out in 2019, the song’s ludicrous length letting each note sprawl. More distinctive this time is Lofgren’s piano, the job he was dragooned into on After the Goldrush.

This is essentially a folk album, though, with broadsides ripped from the headlines. “Rainbow of Colors” suggests the implacable shape of Dylan’s “Masters of War” (itself borrowed from Jean Ritchie’s version of “Nottamun Town”), with stately harmonies. It’s the antithesis of Trump’s “send them back” racism, glorying in intrinsically multi-racial America. Elsewhere Young does a protest singer’s proper job now, railing against the climate emergency. “Shut It Down” is a fuzzed-up chug, looking to crash “the whole system”. Only “Green to Blue” rises to its subject artistically. A lovely, melancholy piano melody, the gentle tish of Molina’s cymbals and a plaintive, frail chorus give sorrowful ballad form to a world where whales bake on the shoreline. Helpless, helpless, he might as well sing. Still, “we long for a better day”.

The ache of passing time and the relief of his new wife Daryl Hannah are Young’s other themes. “Help Me Lose My Mind” dives into ornery madness, with a psychedelic clang: “I’ve got a face that gets me in trouble/I’ve got a voice that does its damage”. Elsewhere, old friends can’t be found when he suddenly needs them, but new love walks in just when he’s “approaching the end of the line”. Spontaneity is still the watchword, disappointment the lingering feeling once again for anyone hoping for one more great album to add to the musty rock canon. Young’s care for the planet is a career-long theme. His own music is careless by contrast. 

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