mon 18/11/2019

CD of the Year: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill | reviews, news & interviews

CD of the Year: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill

CD of the Year: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill

The longer he does it, the better it gets

Step right up for a complete history of the Sixties counterculture plus Young's life story

The world goes apeshit when the Stones manage to drag themselves out for a few gigs after half a decade or so of indolence, but Neil Young rightly gets a bit prickly when people accuse him of making a "comeback". He tends to snarl that "he's never been away."

And he's right. Though he's not far short of 70, Young keeps banging out albums which are at least intermittently impressive (eg Fork in the Road, Living With War, Le Noise), and this year the cantankerous old North Ontarian has been particularly productive. There's been Jonathan Demme's on-the-road film Neil Young Journeys, a box set reissue of his first four solo albums, the slightly mystifying autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, the covers album Americana, and, a couple of months ago, the tumultuous double CD Psychedelic Pill.

You can tell Young has got issues to air and bones to gnaw

The last of these feels like one of Young's benchmark releases, though as so often with his work, producing a definitive analysis of why it works makes you feel like a dog chasing its tail round a tree. His work is notoriously spontaneous and unedited, and in return it demands an unfiltered emotional response.

But right from the opening track, "Driftin' Back", as Young rides the thunder of the indestructible Crazy Horse, you can tell he's got issues to air and bones to gnaw - he's not happy about religion or the prostitution of art by commerce, he hates the inferior processed sound of MP3s, he's "gonna get me a hip-hop haircut". You kind of glimpse bits of this in passing, but it's the hurricane sweep and clamour of his guitar playing that tells most of the story, as Young tears searing chords, banshee slurs, screaming harmonics and rumbles of distant electric thunder from his instrument. Somehow, he has always managed to remain the wide-eyed kid who never lost the sheer glee of creating a barnstorming amped-up racket.  

Meanwhile he has managed to chuck in several of his best songs in years. "Born in Ontario" is a wonderfully bouncy and ramshackle flashback to Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and "Twisted Road" is a heartfelt elegy to his mentor, Bob Dylan. "Psychedelic Pill" exudes the brute muscularity of "Hey Hey, My My" whimsically mixed with a bit of the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", while "Walk Like A Giant" attempts to be nothing less than a complete history of the Sixties counterculture juxtaposed with Young's life story. Totally bonkers, yet it very nearly works. You have to hand it to the old coot. 

Young remains the wide-eyed kid who never lost the sheer glee of creating a barnstorming amped-up racket


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.