Friday, December 28, 2012

Album Review: Neil Young with Crazy Horse -Psychedelic Pill

Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Psychedelic Pill
*** out of *****

Rarely does an opening song define an album, and maybe it is being a bit simplistic, but "Driftin' Back" is such a large entity it will dominate ones feelings about the newest Neil Young with Crazy Horse disk, Psychedelic Pill.

Running 27 minutes and 37 seconds the track is longer then most full albums these days, its lyrics stay close to the title and find a singer/band/generation grumpy.  There is a distinction between being grumpy and pissed though; the players involved seem to take time passing them buy with grudging acceptance not the vitriol you might expect.  The guitars don't snarl, tons of meandering takes place, the drums never fire and give it a break if you think the bass does more then provide the heartbeat; this is Crazy Horse after all. The track feels odd and muted on all fronts yet alluring with what could have been.  What could have been was a magnificent album had the opening track found its way onto a future B-side archive release from the band rather then fronting their most recent effort.

After "Driftin' Back" Young and his all-time best collaborators hit a familiar groove.  There are short rallying cries via the title track, groovy hippy folk with a stomping spice for "Twisted Road" and a shout out to the groups hometown with "Born In Ontario".  All of these are enjoyable, familiar NY&CH yet fresh enough to engage.  

The group finds it's best interplay when they spread their wings on Young's tale of dissolving love/addiction "Ramada Inn" and the whistling stomp/riffage that is "Walk Like A Giant". Both tunes can recall the group at its best, think retirement-aged versions of "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand".  It might seem like high praise but it is warranted with the patented guitar interplay, gorgeous group harmony and burning sense of wonder around every musical break. While not as magical as the originals both efforts still show the outfit has lots of gas (or solar power for Neil's cars?) to keep the journey going on and on.

Which brings us back to the inclusion and placement of "Driftin' Back".  While not an out and out stinker it just seems bizarre to front load an album with a track that doesn't go much of anywhere when other efforts here are really solid and proud to be in the NY&CH cannon.  While Neil notoriously hates new technology at least you can easily press skip and save yourself a half hour and then bite into the rest of this Psychedelic Pill.        
Neil Young and Crazy Horse are high on RtBE's all-time favorites list, and this year gave us some ups and downs with the best garage band in history.  We loved the band live, while were letdown what should have been a winning combo in Americana. Psychedelic Pill falls somewhere in the middle of things. Not earth shattering, but not a disappointment.  Good, not great. Anyway, support the artist here, buy the album here and peep some samples below:      
"Ramada Inn"

"Psychedelic Pill"

"Walk Like A Giant" Live from the show we caught a month ago at MSG

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