Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Album Review: Neil Young- Bluenote Cafe

Neil Young
Bluenote Cafe
*** out of *****
The newest release in the Neil Young Archive Performance Series is the Bluenote Cafe which commemorates Uncle Neil's 1988 Blue Note's tour. That was in support of Young's This Note's For You album which was an experiment in the blues with a six-piece horn section. That brass went out on the road with Neil and the best of those shows is captured on this disk.

While not as far flung as his Trans or Everybody's Rockin'  periods This Note's For You has never been a high point for fans, more of a step back onto the right road for Neil. His amazing Eldorado EP would surface as an import before the glorious return to form Freedom arrived. There are traces of that Neil here, "Life In The City" almost plays as a sketched out version of "Rockin' In The Free World". When listening to this archive release, even without the knowledge of what was coming next, two things are pretty clear from the get go.

First, the players, production and performances are drum tight and sound beautiful. The deep bass of Rick Rosas holds the bottom while the keyboards of Frank Sampedro and the horn section float around the heavens. Each instrument, solo, and change is captured excellently and audiophiles will have a field day with the sound of this archive release.    

Second, Young was not as his songwriting best. While his singing is heartfelt, he will always be Uncle Neil and fans are used to that. The issue becomes a lot of these offerings just aren't that memorable, they are 2nd or 3rd rate tunes from a man who has written some of the best rock tunes ever. There are passing tracks like "Hello Lonely Women", "Twilight" and the obviously dull "Ten Men Working". The two crime tunes run the gamut "Crime Of The Heart" could be a real winner in say Wilson Pickett's hands while "Crime In The City" is very interesting and a good example of this period (minus the horns), it is played with fire and determination, but it ends up sounding derivative in the overall Young collection.  

The must hears from this double CD offering are the blistering piano laced "Ordinary People" that really breaths alive without getting stale for its extended run time. "This Note's For You" places you into 1988 Neil's anti-corporate stance, and one that in the light of today's artists aching to sell-out, seems so ancient.

The other track fans and non-fans should search out is the set closing version of "Tonight's The Night" which expands to almost twenty minutes. It is this kind of adventure that makes you wonder what would happen if Young re-imagined more of his back catalog with this added horn section. Then again who knows where the muse will take Uncle Neil, he could do that in 2016.   
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video:  

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