Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Album Review: Neil Young - Homegrown

Neil Young
**** out of *****

About 45 years ago Neil Young broke up with Carrie Snodgrass and while the pain seeped into Neil Young classics On The Beach and Zuma, Homegrown was the true break-up record, but it was shelved for the more painfully visceral Tonight's The Night in 1975. Now Homegrown sees the light of day while fans (RtBE included) will know various versions of these songs from outtakes and bootlegs the high audio quality and rambling jam like feel of the album instantly slots in with albums from his most fruitful era of song writing/recording. 

The clear connection is On The Beach, as the songs on Homegrown continue that feeling of melting away into the ether instead of properly ending. Songs are never fully flushed out, containing chatter to start or end as an overall jam session styling colors the full length. There is much to be grateful for starting with the title track, which has seen it's share of official releases, but this percolating hippie take is a doozy which could have kept on going. The album isn't a stone cold classic as a few weak points stand out, "We Don't Smoke It No More" hazily rambles nowhere, "Mexico" is a piano demo that just seems to be finding it's legs when it wraps up while the actively annoying spoken word screeching of "Florida" in the center of the album is not worth the tape it was recorded on. 

Thankfully that mid 70's sense of dislocation-from-time that Neil & Company nailed with On The Beach, is all over the album. Fantastic opener "Separate Ways" works harmonica, pedal steel and a gorgeous bass tone front and center as Young vocally disappears into the edges of the breakup track."Love Is A Rose" was previously released on Decade but slots in perfectly here before the hypnotic and brief "Kansas" while "Try" with it's late arriving barrel house piano and Emmylou Harris backing vocals keep that languid On The Beach tone alive as the syrupy pace and aloofness is haunting.    

Even better efforts arrive at the end as "White Line" a gorgeous duet recorded with Robbie Robertson is stunning while "Vacancy" goes heavy Neil directly addressing the break up around killer guitar tone and cutting lyrics in a upbeat rocking ramble. The wounded "Little Wing" breathes with a exasperated sense of loss around warm acoustic guitar and strong harmonica work while album closer "Star of Bethlehem" is one of the best songs Young has ever produced. It's country loop, Harris joining vocally and shuffling drumming lead to the questioning lyrics in classic Young style about personal pain and the loss of Faith with a capital F. 

Almost all of Homegrown has been floating around for years (see RtBE's favorite Neil boot Chrome Dreams), but this official release fits into the overall time frame, allowing the listener to return to that era as we sift through another disjointed time in our world. Perhaps waiting for the exact right moment, 45 years in the future, has given these loose numbers added cosmic depth that Young always intended them to have? Who knows, who cares, prime Neil Young should be absorbed and ruminated upon properly; what is proper, is up to you.    
RtBE discussed all of Uncle Neil's albums during last years Masters series. Support the artist, buy the album, and peep some video below:


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