Thursday, September 6, 2012

Album Review - Neil Young & Crazy Horse -Americana

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
** out of *****

Put together a guitar god backed his best supporting players as they tear their way through a back catalog of folk songs everyone knows and you have a combination for epic greatness.  While Americana never reaches those lofty heights it still makes for a fun listen all around.

Rather then digging deep to excavate long forgotten folk songs Neil Young and Crazy Horse focus on ditties that were taught in elementary schools for years, then play up the verses that we never learned.  I am not sure about you, but I never sang about killing a Red Rooster in "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain" even though that verse (like the one about portals) was there all along.  By using this method all the songs are familiar but still surprise with new lyrics.  

Those hidden verses are apparently is what brought Neil to try his hand at these songs, as he stated:
The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them — the other verses in "This Land Is Your Land" are very timely, or in "Clementine," the verses are so dark. Almost every one has to do with people getting killed, with life-or-death struggles.
Those struggles have historically been where Neil shines, and it can not be denied that Crazy Horse is where Neil is at his best.  The issue here is they never really run totally free, sticking more to repetitive song structure.

It can be seen on tracks like the mentioned "Clementine" which feels like it could be broken open for a mega Crazy Horse excursion but never strays very far from the formula.  The fact that "Wayfaring Stranger" is stripped down and done acoustically is also a disappointment, that tune was ripe for a raw assault.

Some questionable choices as "folk songs" also are a bit odd, "Get A Job" always struck me as more of a novelty track and that feeling permeates this version too.  "God Save The Queen" is just a clunker in choice, delivery and totality, ending the album on a sour note.  

Where the combo of Crazy Horse's raw stomp/ roar and these folk songs back woods creepiness works best are on the loose demo vibe juxtaposed with pristine backing vocals of "Travel On"and their riff heavy take on Billy Edd Wheeler's "High Flying Bird" which inspires.

Knowing the group is set to release a double album next month Americana feels more like a warmup act as opposed to a fully flushed out project, but re-exploring old songs never gets old in my book. If you are not a big fan of old music or the Crazy Horse rumble you may want to wait to see what the boys cook up in October.
This is a decent album, it is just that I am such a big fan of Neil Young's work with Crazy Horse that when I heard about this project my expectations shot through the roof.  I was a little let down by the overall final project, and I am curious if I will go back to it much in the future.  That said I can't wait for their upcoming release...but maybe I should drop my expectations a bit.

Here are a few tracks to preview from the album, please as always support the artist here, buy the album here, and catch the artist live here.    

"Jesus Chariot (She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain)"

"Travel On"

No comments:

Post a Comment