Neil Young – [Album]

Neil Young – [Album]

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Friday, 22 January 2016
REVIEWS


Neil Young and Bluenote Cafe
Bluenote Cafe 2CD
(Reprise/Warner)
Many things could be said for and about Neil Young but, without a doubt, that he was never brash enough to follow a questionable artistic lede through to its conclusion is not one of them. One of the best examples of that can be found in the guitarist’s straight-up blues/R&B period; in the late Eighties (read: long after The Blues Brothers might have made the sound popular enough to turn Bluenote Cafe into a hot concert ticket), Neil Young decided it would be a good idea to scrub up, get presentable and play the blues with a full horn section. So, after assembling the band and recording This Note’s For You in 1988, he took the show on the road.

For those who don’t know, the album wasn’t particularly well-received (the song best remembered from the time period is the album’s title track – and that doesn’t exactly qualify as a glowing endorsement) – conspicuously, Eldorado and Freedom were released very quickly after in 1989 – and it eventually became one of the curiosities in Young’s catalogue which has a few fans, but has an equal-or-greater number of critics. Even so, the music does get re-examined occasionally – a fact illustrated by Bluenote Cafe which offers live cuts from the time period.

Now, forgetting that the This Note’s For You period is one of the more disliked moments in Neil Young’s career (it rivals ReË–acË–tor for its number of very vocal critics) and really just allowing the performances on this two-disc set to stand on their own, some listeners will find themselves conceding that the complaints about Neil Young’s direction in 1989 are actually more limited to their time than the music. Right from note one, listeners may find themselves startled by the tight and precise playing that they’ll discover through “Welcome To The Big Room,” “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me” and “This Note’s For You”; there are no spastic, atonal guitar solos from Young here, and his vocals showcase a shocking amount of discipline (to the point where one might wonder if Young trained for this tour in addition to rehearsing), and the horns just explode out of the mix beautifully. Some Young fans may scream heresy but, maybe because memories have faded or maybe because minds have opened up a bit, these performances sound pretty damned good indeed in this early playing.

Because of the set’s strong start, that Bluenote Cafe keeps its momentum may not surprise listeners. Standout performances of “Life In The City,” “Bad News Comes To Town,” “Doghouse” and “Tonight’s The Night” (which was exhumed from Young’s 1975 album by the same name) surpass any and all expectations that even über-fans may have of this set and these songs, and stand up to be counted as classic work which easily redeems the underrated studio counterpart. Simply put, what we hear on Bluenote Cafe is better than studio fare; this album could easily stand as a collection of definitive performances of each of these songs. [BILL ADAMS]

Artist:
http://neilyoung.warnerreprise.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NeilYoung/

https://twitter.com/Neilyoung?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author

Album:
Bluenote Cafe is out now. Buy it here on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Bluenote-Caf%C3%A9-2CD-Neil-Young/dp/B017OCQ5BY/ref=sr_1_2_twi_aud_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453437731&sr=8-2&keywords=Bluenote+Cafe

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Neil Young – [Album]

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Neil Young has never been afraid to experiment and, with Le Noise, he has caught the bug again. This time it’s just Neil alone with his guitar, but he’s not completely alone as this disc is really a collaboration with producer Daniel Lanois (whose producer credits are too long to list here, but I bet you know at least the big ones, like Bob Dylan and U2). Of course, Neil Young alone with a guitar isn’t really a new thing; what’s different here is that it’s (mostly) an electric guitar.

Which brings up point number two: Neil Young has never been afraid of noise, but Le Noise is aptly titled. This is probably his noisiest studio release ever. Obviously it can’t compete with some of his live stuff – especially the all-feedback Arc (released as a bonus disc with the live album Weld)i – but it definitely plays close attention to Young's more caustic and textural side in a way that is at least comparable.

So we have Young with his guitar cranked all the way up, and fed through a variety of effects, and Lanois twiddling knobs, creating its' final shape. It’s impossible to tell who is responsible for which sounds, but the result is noise at its most beautiful. The sounds of feedback, echo, and swirl into gorgeous soundscapes. This is sound with depth and substance; sound you can get lost in.

If the final result sometimes reminds me of a kid in his dorm room with an eight-track Teac and his guitar, it is only in the best way, which is that Le Noise is an exposition of the need to get something inside out. Young (and Lanois) are far too talented to fall into the traps such recordings usually suffer from. The songwriting and guitar playing are far too good, even if Young does strain his voice pretty badly at times (especially on “Peaceful Valley Boulevard”).

The two acoustic songs (“Love and War” and “Peaceful Valley Boulevard”) come as pleasant respites from all this noise. They give listeners a chance to pause and reflect on what has come before.

Actually, despite the aggressive sound, Le Noise is a reflective album, overall. Perhaps it’s the solo setting, or perhaps it’s just age, but Le Noise finds Young looking back on his life. In “The Hitchhiker,” he sings “I tried to leave my past behind/But it’s catching up with me.” That comes through repeatedly. “Love and War” recalls his folk-singer days in Toronto, when he first started out as a musician, and “The Hitchhiker” recounts many of his mistakes along the road, especially with drugs. “Peaceful Valley” repeats one of Young’s favorite themes – the violence which accompanied the settlement of the west – but he almost mocks that sentiment (and his previous songs) in “The Hitchhiker” with the line “I thought I was an Aztec/or a runner from Peru.”

In its' reflection and its' overall sound, Le Noise  most reminds me of Sleeps with Angels, Young’s 1994 album reflecting on Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Sadly, I fear that this album, like that one, may end up a mostly neglected chapter in Young’s massive catalog, which would be a shame. Le Noise is not an immediately accessible album, and it has no obvious hit; in fact, the very structure of the music will probably discourage any airplay at all. Nonetheless, Le Noise presents an inspired Neil Young, doing what he wants – which has always been how he has approached his music. Whether the masses understand or appreciate it seems almost irrelevant.

Artist:

www.neilyoung.com/

www.myspace.com/neilyoung

Download:

Neil Young – “Walk With Me” – Le Noise


Album:

Le Noise is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Neil Young – [Album]

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Sunday, 31 May 2009

There's no disputing that Neil Young is an excellent songwriter (when he wants to be), but that doesn't mean every microtone in his songbook has been created equal – in fact, on an album-by-album basis, the singer has gone through cycles of good and bad. In his 40-some-year career, Young seems to have followed a similar arc at every turn: he has released documents of jaw-dropping craft and insight and that strength has endured for a few successive releases before he bottoms out into one form of self-indulgent dreck or another (the pinnacles of which being releases like Arc, Weld and a significant amount of the material released during Ronald Reagan's administration as president) that make even the most excusing of fans question the validity of their support. Whether it was indeed such a cycle or the fact that the Bush administration gave him a lot of outrageous content to work with, the dawn of the new millennium found Neil Young in his finest form as releases including Greendale and Living With War found the singer rediscovering his inner activist (Living With War) and storyteller (Greendale) and setting it to the warhorse folk and rock powers that have always been his hallmark and the source of his acclaim. Not surprisingly, the ranks of the singer's fan base once again swelled – to even greater proportions than ever before – but anyone with a sense of Young's history knew and feared what would inevitably happen next: a swift and complete about-face to focus on sounds that he only wishes were within his skill set.

Enter Fork In The Road.

In the strictest of terms, Fork In The Road isn't as creatively troubling as it could be, but there's no doubt that the album bears more than a slight resemblance to those famously vilified albums that Young released  between 1981 and 1988 including Re-Ac-Tor and This Note's For You. The first, strongest and most prominent problem with the album is that, lyrically, the songs simply do not sound finished; circular and repetitive lines and melodies characterize tunes like “Just Singing A Song,” “Johnny Magic” and “Cough Up The Bucks” and give listeners the impression that the vocals are scratch placeholders laid down for the purpose of keeping ideas, but to be replaced later when complete sheets are finished. Likewise, the fast and loose compositional structures plague the music in each of these ten songs too. Happily, Young did learn a couple of things since last he and The Stray Gators and/or The Ducks attempted to make adjustments to Young's heavy-handed, meat-and-potatoes rock and incorporate art-punk, soul or rockabilly into the stew, this time the merger is attempted with R&B and, because the nature of the style is already a little looser, it compliments Young a little better – even if it is a little too novel for its own good. “Johnny Magic,” for example, boasts a decent swing and rolls along reasonably well on the rhythm section supplied by bassist Rick Rosas and drummer Chad Cromwell, the only things that sink the song are a few too many hippy-dippy, wish-they-were-soulful and tossed off lines from Young. The same problem comes across in “Cough Up The Bucks” as, with a god-awful refrain, the song almost comes off like a rewrite of “T-Bone” (from Re-Ac-Tor, which did indeed sound like Flipper after a very greasy meal); it's complicated though because “Cough Up The Bucks” makes explicit a new affinity for more urban sounds, but it's just too bad that Young can't dance.

So is this dialogue overly critical? No, it isn't – but that doesn't mean that Fork In The Road is a total loss either. The late playing of the record finds Young taking all of these ideas out on the road to give them a little dust and traveled tarnish and particularly tracks like “Get Behind The Wheel” and “Hit The Road” play a lot better for the inclusion of Young's trusty travel imagery and thus giving hope that whatever follows Fork In The Road won't be so damned soft. This does – or rather it could – work, the ideas clearly just need a little more time to cure.

…And, if nothing else, just remember: As any long-time fan can tell you, “It could be a whole lot worse.”

Artist:

Neil Young official homepage

Neil Young myspace

Album:

Fork In The Road
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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