It’s been 50 years since Neil Young and Crazy Horse first collaborated on ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’, so half a century later when it was announced that they would be collaborating once again it raised curiosity.
Young has always been a political singer, seen by hits in his earlier days when he recorded with Crosby, Stills, and Nash with the song “Ohio” detailing the outrage towards the Kent State shootings during the Vietnam War. Therefore, it would be expected that Young deals with some of the pressing issues in the modern day in Colorado. He doesn’t disappoint.
The album was recorded in a studio high in the Rocky Mountains within Colorado, 9000 feet above sea level. This area of rural natural beauty might be expected to trigger a more country rock album, a hark back to Harvest perhaps. Instead, it offers a more rock orientated album, seemingly influenced by Young’s own uncompromising style as it has existed since the 60s, along with the friends he met along the way.
It opens with ‘Think of Me’, an Eagle-esque road trip rock song, book-ended by Blonde on Blonde era harmonica solos. ‘She Showed Me Love’ follows, the first obviously political song on the record addressing the fight for nature between “old white guys” trying to destroy it and the “young folk” trying to save it. Despite the remarkable stylistic, and even vocal similarities, between old and modern Young, he addresses the loss of old friends on Olden Days. As an unfortunate feature of growing old, loss is a recurring theme through the record as whole, particularly Young’s former long-time manager, Elliot Roberts.
Help Me Lose My Mind and Shut It Down take an angrier, heavier rock turn on the half way mark, almost as though it were inspired by Document by R.E.M, taking on issues such as lies, deception, TV media and ending with a call to “shut the system down”. The first single, ‘Milky Way’, is no doubt inspired by the apparently vivid views of the Milky Way from the Colorado Rockies which begins to offer a more optimistic and gentler view of the world, along with the following track ‘Eternity’. In that vein, the second single from the album ‘Rainbow of Colors’ sounds defiant towards the people that the earlier tracks were no doubt aimed at. All members of the band join in the chorus, with lyrics suggesting the USA will not be subject to “whitewashing” set to a tune seemingly based on George Harrison’s ‘Behind that Locked Door’.
As the album slowly ends on the softer ‘I Do’, the listener is well versed in the issues facing us today, from the environment to politics but with an optimistic spin about how beautiful the world can be and still is. As for Young, it is easy to forget that he is now well into his 70s, still making the music he would have done in his 20s and ending the record on a well fulfilled promise “We’re gonna do it just like we did back then”.
Last modified: 8th November 2019