Thursday, February 2, 2023

Album Review: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - World Record

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
World Record
***and1/2 out of *****

The most impressive aspect of Neil Young's 42nd album (15th with Crazy Horse backing him) is the free flowing nature and rich sound which suite the old folkies perfectly. Recorded live and mixed to analog tape at Rick Rubin's Shangri-La studio in Malibu, California. World Record isn't a great Neil Young and Crazy Horse offering, but it is a enjoyable and excellent sounding reminder of what this outfit does best, plug in and play with freedom and feeling. 

Lyrically throughout Young sings (with excellent backup vocals) about a dying planet, nature and what man has done to Earth. These are all topics he has covered multiple times in the past and while none of the lyrics are particularly affecting, they are straight forward without filler. These songs are direct, but it is the vibrant music that shines brighter than any turn of phrase. 

Opener "Love Earth" sets the tone with loud piano, shuffling drums, and weepy slide guitar as Young delivers yet another ode of his to Mother Earth. Rubin's production has a great natural feel that pairs well with the grounded theme. This feeling continues into "Overhead" with pump organ break and more harmonies and "The Long Day" which also brings strong harmonica into the mix.

"This Old Planet", the songs closing reprise and the pacifists "Walkin' On Ther Road" continue in this vein with accordion and pump organs as Young keeps the same vibe chugging along as the Horse (Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina, Nils Lofgren) follow. The theme tries to pick up the pace with "The Long Day Before" as Young experiments by writing a rock song without guitars, instead using pump organ, accordion and harmonica in the six strings place; while it misses the mark sonically, Young is always willing to follow his muse wherever it takes him even this late in the game.      

Better is "The Wonder Won't Wait" which stays in that same oddball folk rock vein but brings in a bit more Horse fuzz and aggression to better flush out the song and pressing message ("Take some time to live before you die"). 

The two outliers are "Chevrolet" and "Break The Chains". "Chevrolet" is an elongated, free flowing, classic Horse guitar jam which could go on forever; a gorgeous ode to a car and the electric guitar work of Young and Lofgren. "Break the Chain" is a Covid inspired call back to the guttural punk influenced Horse of "Welfare Mothers", containing a mega rough, fuzzy guitar tone from Young on Big Black that busts out speakers, deep bass thumping from Talbot and dynamite all around sound captured by Rubin; excellent NY&CH in all the best ways. 

This classic combo has unexpectedly prolific in recent years, with Barn, Colorado and the 'lost album' Toast all getting released. World Record is the best of this late career bunch as Rubin and crew have captured the elder Horse and Young in their natural element. When Young straps in and rides the Horse things are never meant to be perfect, just honest, and World Record delivers on that.
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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