thu 27/01/2022

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Barn | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Barn

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Barn

Hushed Horse epics rekindle sputtering songwriting

Neil Young’s ornery spontaneity has resulted in a remarkable number of mediocre songs. His sketchy 21st century has conjured audacious sonic conceits – the jazzy sparseness of Peace Trail, or the plastic-sounding live album Earth, both 2016 – without the writing to match.

Last year’s disinterred, lost Seventies album Homegrown recalled how very different Young’s inspired instinct sounds. Reconstituting Crazy Horse with early member Nils Lofgren on Colorado (2019), after “Poncho” Sampedro’s retirement, covered similarly pedestrian work with his old band’s comforting sound. This follow-up has its share of unsorted observations and on the nose protests. But its finest moments conjure gossamer mysteries, recalling just why Neil Young matters.

“Song of the Seasons” is in the former camp, Young watching wind ripple on water as he jots random notes on subjects including the death of Prince Philip (“the king is gone now and she remains,” he sings, phrasing he once applied to Elvis and Johnny Rotten now offering an old Canadian’s sympathy to his actual monarch). “Change Ain’t Never Gonna” is another artless eco-protest song, workers “thrown away like an old corn-cob” the sole resonant line.

Even here, though, Lofgren’s presence makes this a different Horse. Usually seen as Young’s perfectly limited, loyal garage band, Lofgren’s piano – which Young hustled him into playing, untutored, on After the Gold Rush­ – adds sprightly swing and barrelhouse vigour, shaping subtly dancing music. The crackling lope of “Heading West” and dungeon clangs of “Human Race” meanwhile add familiar guitar virtues.

“They Might Be Lost” is where Barn first passes into less solid terrain. “I’m waiting for the boys to bring the truck in/They shoulda been here by now,” Neil worries. “It’s way past 4.20, and I’m waitin’.” Whether they arrive, and what may have befallen them, remains unresolved, as piano and acoustic guitar ominously toll, and “the smoke that I burn keeps taking me to the old days”. It’s a contemplative reverie over shuffling drums, the worth of those old Sixties times, and Young himself, also left hanging.

“Welcome Back” develops this mood over more than eight minutes. “Gonna sing an old song to you right now/One that you’ve heard before,” Young begins. “Might be a window to your soul that I can open slowly/I’ve been singing this way for so long…” He whispers the same words later, as notes unfold over Ralph Molina’s brushwork in rustic, woody psychedelia, Crazy Horse carving out territory in some Western forest, electric guitars flaring like torches. A reckoning with the Sixties’ legacy, and lives lived, continues with allusive poetry: “So welcome back, welcome back, it’s not the same/The shade is just you blinking.”

Reforming Crazy Horse in the face of deaths including beloved manager Elliot Roberts felt like old friends huddling together, seeking warmth from age’s encroaching chill. This time round, the fire has taken, rekindling Young’s art.

He whispers the same words later, as notes unfold in rustic, woody psychedelia

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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