(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what they’re looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a Neil Young fan.)
Overall Score: 5/5
Best song: “Revolution Blues”
Worst song: They’re all fine
It’s funny that the moment when the mass populace seemed to abandon Neil Young in droves, his music gets better. In my eyes, this album is vastly superior to the following: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, Harvest and Déjà Vu. I don’t say this just to be a weirdo; it’s what I actually think. That ultra-polished, ultra-careful and ultra-boring Neil Young of Harvest is gone in favor of rawer, sloppier and more earnest replacement. What’s more, this album actually has diversity meaning that it sounds fresh throughout unlike the previous albums that suffered from saminess.
The first four songs are awesome!! “Walk On” is a rather bouncy rock song with a catchy melody and bouncy instrumentation. Before, Young rarely let himself sound so sloppy… But that’s exactly how he should sound. After all, he’s the Godfather of Grunge, right? … He already had an awful voice; ugly instrumentation was the only missing link. For Young it seems, the more undisciplined he is the better … as long as he’s keeping the well-written melodies, earnest ambitions and instrumentation ability intact. Young changes up the mood to deliver a ballad for the second track. The instrumentation is very raw and features a distorted electric piano (that gives it good texture) and a phenomenally engaging vocal melody.
As good as those two songs were, he changes things up wonderfully with the mean and driving “Revolution Blues.” It’s arguably the best song he had written until this point (it’s definitely the most hard rocking song he had ever released). Thanks to the skillful instrumentation (including a finger melting electric guitar solo), it’s a complete blast to listen to. He changes styles completely after that for the refreshing “Turnstiles,” which features Young singing to a simple banjo and a noodly guitar.
Despite all the goodness contained in the first four tracks, this isn’t quite the perfect album… Although the album’s weak spots are certainly stronger than the weak spots on his more celebrated works. “On the Beach” and “Ambulance Blues” probably constitute the weakest points, but that’s mostly because there wasn’t a compelling reason to make them so lengthy! Nonetheless, they’re fine songs, and still worth investing the time it takes to listen.
I’ve appreciated every single Neil Young album released until this point, but this (and the currently unavailable Time Fades Away) mark the earliest occasions when I actually enjoyed his work. COOL!
Walk On A
A bouncy rock song with a good melody and enjoyable instrumentals. That’s all you needed to tell me, and I would’ve been sold on it before hearing! Considering that it’s a much stronger beginning than I remember Harvest to be, this is like a breath of fresh air. The riff is catchy, and Young had the decency to let the song sound rawer and more imperfect. The result is it sounds more like a good song!
See the Sky About to Rain A
Nice texture! It seems like he put a simple distortion effect to an electric piano or something. It’s sloppy though endearing… far from that overly polished Harvest nonsense! That, plus a genuinely catchy melody makes this another ideal Young composition. I’m not crazy about the five minute running length, which seems rather excessive for the amount of ideas he presents, but its overwhelming charm is the overriding factor. The slide guitarist is does a fantastic job… he makes the instrument speak modestly without sounding at all like another country-western cliché. Wonderful!
Revolution Blues A+
If Neil Young had it in him to sound this cool all along, then I wonder what the heck he thinks he was doing in his career until now. This is a rather mean and driving rock song with an excellent electric guitar solo! The melody is catchy, and Young delivers a perfectly snarling vocal performance. …I’m tempted to say this is the better than any of his songs on his classic albums. (Well, it’s more instantly likable, at least.)
For the Turnstiles A-
Behold! DIVERSITY! … Just because this is a simple song nothing but someone picking a banjo and someone else picking an acoustic guitar, I give it an extra point. I always like a little spice with my rock albums, and Young seems to be happily delivering it. Young’s vocals are rather sloppy, but considering the guy has such an ugly voice anyway, it almost seems better this way. This is quite good.
Vampire Blues B+
And now, a little R&B. These sort of songs are derivative by nature, but Young glitters it up with some unconventional solos. His electric guitar work throughout is very playful, and whoever’s playing the organ is goofing around, too. That combined with Young’s sarcastic lyrics makes this rather memorable.
On the Beach B
This isn’t bad, but it’s seven minutes long and didn’t need to be. It’s a mid-tempoed ballad with a dash of blues, and he doesn’t go to many lengths to keep it interesting for its duration. Nonetheless, the hypnotic aspect of it as well as an OK melody keeps it from growing dull at all.
Motion Pictures (For Carrie) A-
A fantastic ballad!! I used to think this was for that Stephen King movie, but it’s for his then-girlfriend Carrie Snodgrass. It must be nice to have a pretty song like this dedicated to you. It’s very humble and the melody is sweet. Young with his imperfect voice sings like he means it. The imperfect instrumentation adds to its endearing humble quality.
Ambulance Blues B
At nine minutes, this overstays its welcome… But I could fathom worst nine-minutes, and I don’t consider it a criminal waste of time. The instrumentation is quite good here with young’s acoustic guitar strumming and earnest singing (though odd lyrics). Bringing in a genuine sounding harmonica and violin were great ideas. This is quite good!
For my money, this is the best Neil Yong album till this point.
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Neil Young (1969) | Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969) | After the Gold Rush (1970) | Harvest (1972) | On the Beach (1974) | Tonight's the Night (1975) | Zuma (1975) | American Stars 'N Bars (1977) | Comes a Time (1978) | Rust Never Sleeps (1979) | Live Rust (1979) | Hawks & Doves (1980) | Re-ac-tor (1981) | Trans (1982) | Everybody's Rockin' (1983) | Old Ways (1985) | Landing On Water (1986) | Life (1987) | This Note's For You (1988) | Freedom (1989) | Ragged Glory (1990) | Weld (1991) | Arc (1991) | Harvest Moon (1992) | Unplugged (1993) | Sleeps With Angels (1994) | Mirror Ball (1995) | Dead Man (1996) | Broken Arrow (1996) | Year of the Horse (1997) | Silver & Gold (2000) | Rock Road Vol. 1 (2000) | Are You Passionate? (2002) | Greendale (2003) | Prairie Wind (2005) | Living With War (2006) | Chrome Dreams II (2007) | Fork in the Road (2009) | Le Noise (2010)