Chrome Dreams II Reviews
A roundup of Chrome Dreams II reviews. Some excellent. Some good. Some mediocre.
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"Neil Young Reconciles His Opposing Sides" - Village Voice by Richard Bienstock:
Chrome Dreams II, on which various Neils commingle to an extent not heard on record since perhaps 1989's Freedom, immediately comes off as the 61-year-old artist's freshest effort in years, even as it's steeped in Young-ian oddball mythology: The "II" in the title is in deference to the Loch Ness monster that is Chrome Dreams, an unreleased late-'70s "album" that has been credited as the original home of now-classics like "Powderfinger" and "Like a Hurricane." But Young is also nodding to more verifiable history: The new record is front-loaded with three '80s-era tunes ("Ordinary People" in particular has, in the ensuing years, been deified by Neil-philes), while the backing musicians gathered here are alumni of past Young bands the Stray Gators, the Bluenotes, and of course, Crazy Horse.
"'Chrome' At Last!" - Entertainment Weekly by WILLMAN, CHRIS (via BNB):
"Maybe branding this one a follow-up to something that officially doesn't exist is the 61-year-old firebrand's waggish way of telling faithful followers that even though he controversially charges as much as $260 for a ticket nowadays, he's still the incorrigible kook they know and love. But there's serious intent to the titular in-joke too: He's signaling to fans that in the grooves, where it counts, he's back in Classic Neil mode."
Crawdaddy! - Reviews - Neil Young by Denise Sullivan:
Chrome Dreams II may just be Young's own version of Dylan's rejuvenating Time Out of Mind.
Young calls it an album about the human condition, though more specifically, he delves into the desire for communion with a higher self, and perhaps even a force outside the self. Could it be God? If you’ve ever gone looking for the divine in Neil Young's songs, you'd probably find evidence of it in his holy visions of natural beauty, love, and family — Young's stock in trade when he isn't staring into the abyss.
Atheist and agnostic Young listeners, consider yourselves forewarned: Chrome Dreams II just might make a believer out of you.
"Neil Young Is Full of Shit" - Seattle Weekly by Brian J Barr (This is actually much better than the title suggests! Great graphic with this review and definitely worth the click):
"Prairie Wind suggested Neil had come close to God in his post–brain surgery years, and the seven new tracks on Chrome Dreams II do nothing to refute that."
Glide Magazine Reviews By Jason Gonulsen:
"“Shining Light,” “The Believer,” Spirit Road,” “Dirty Old Man,” and “Ever After” all represent something different that Young has tried over the past few years; there are moments in any song that will remind one of Are You Passionate, Prairie Wind, or Sleeps with Angels, and there will be difficult moments in this stretch for any Neil Young fan. It’s here in the heart of Chrome Dreams II where the listener has to polish off what he or she likes and move on to the real treat of album, “No Hidden Path,” which is quite possibly the best song Young has recorded in the 21st century. I don’t want to tell you it’s better than “Change Your Mind,” “Love and Only Love,” or “I’m The Ocean,” but its 14-and-a-half minutes do what no other Neil Young song has done in quite a while: it’s strong where it should be weak, soaring when it should be taking a rest; yes, it’s ok to get excited."
New York Magazine:
Following "Southern Man" and "Old Man," the track "Dirty Old Man" completes Neil Young's song trilogy about men who've made questionable life choices.
Toronto's NOW review (via BNB) by Tim Perlich:
"As the years pass, Young seems progressively more prone to settle for mediocre ideas and hammer away at them longer, stretching them out with pointless guitar wank (and there's loads of it here) that some fans might actually enjoy."
UK Times Online by Pete Paphides:
"The sense of a man in the middle of some great cosmic audit finds its match on The Believer. Here, Young hints at an Earth-centred mysticism that takes flight on the concluding starlit rapture of The Way and Spirit Road. As sundry Crazy Horse alumni chug out a messy, kinetic riff on the latter, Young celebrates the nomadic urges of the song’s youthful protagonist. You want it to go on twice as long, but it conks out gloriously at six minutes."
On Rust: Early thoughts on CDII (spoiler) a track by track rundown by Pontus:
"It's really to early to say, but right now I'd rank this one as one of the two strongest Neil albums since the early 90's."
"For Neil Young, some songs never sleep" -- chicagotribune.com by Greg Kot:
"'I don't know where I'm goin'/Show me now, I'm waiting to see you,' Young sings on 'Shining Light.' It's a question Young has been trying to answer his entire career, and the sense that he can't settle down, that he flits from style to style like a moth lost in a light bulb factory, is the key to his appeal, and also the root of his failures."
From Neil Young News: Chrome Dreams II Reviews comment by Andrew:
"I gotta say, after reading two dozen or so rather mixed reviews, listening to the tracks on myspace, reading the lyrics, and so on... I wasn't expecting alot from this album... but let me tell you that it absolutely floored me. I honest to god love every track, and I think it could be my favourite Neil album since Harvest Moon or Ragged Glory. (I said the same for Prairie Wind, but this blows PW out of the water too, in my opinion). Not a perfect album, but flawed in the same sort of endearing way that American Stars N' Bars and Hawks and Doves are flawed... as opposed to Living With War flawed. The record has such a beautiful vibe to it. Very mysterious, melancholy kinda thing... similar to the original Chrome Dreams, in my opinion."
Slant Magazine Music Review by Jimmy Newlin:
Since the This Note's For You period, ["Ordinary People"] has long been a bootlegger's fave. Like much of Young's '80s output, it's an angry, sprawling diatribe about the problems of the inner city, Reaganomics, materialism, and so forth, dressed up as an apocalyptic vision. The song is compelling—thanks in no small part to the presence of the Blue Note Horns—but it's 15 minutes too long and 19 years too late. Some critics have quipped about the song's reference to "Lee Iacocca people," but I'm more struck by Young's imagining of "people [getting] drugs to the street all right/Trying to help the people." I'm not saying it's for better or worse, but pop culture's portrayals of drug use has become far more realistic in the nearly two decades since this song was written: Think Eminem's descriptions of vicodin, or the representations of crack use on The Shield or in Half Nelson. The song's G-rated images of "dealers" and "the streets" captures the outrage that followed the crack explosion of the '80s, but it also captures the cluelessness of that era's white liberal indignation. To include it on a new album—as opposed to a rarities compilation or something to give it a sense of temporal context—reinforces what some of us feared when the 9/11 anthem "Let's Roll" came out: Neil's turning out to be a bit of a square.
Observer Music Monthly
Backed with the gusto of big horns, Young's guitar is once again a thing of wonder on this track, now slashing and burning, now playing transcendent dance riffs.
An album of great emotional depth and uninhibited artistry. [Nov 2007, p.96]
What we have here is easily Mr. Young's finest work in years, one that erases the memory of his well-intentioned but anemic 2006 protest album, "Living with War."
It is his most enjoyable and well-rounded one in, like, an eternity.
The veteran rock 'n' roller manages a few neat tricks on this sprawling head-spinner.
The World Wide Glen: Welcome to My Thoughtmare (review has some cool graphics):
"So on its surface, Chrome Dreams II is a mixed bag that feels like one of those notoriously 'in-between' Neil Young albums I alluded to earlier. Some are calling it his best in years, although I'm not really sure I'm quite ready to go there yet. What I will say is that there is at least a little bit of every element here that has made Neil Young such an enduring artist over the years."
Macalester College Weekly -"Better to burn out: Neil Young's new record, "Chrome Dreams II" by Jon Bernstein:
The song titles alone tell the story quite nicely: tracks like "Shining Light," and "The Believer" assert the power of simple faith. Young spends the majority of the album dealing with his belief, and searching for some sort of ultimate sense of relief. "Show me the way, and I'll follow you today," Young pleads in the second to last track, "No Hidden Path," and in the very next song and album finale, "The Way", we're left with a children's choir singing almost mockingly that they indeed "know the way," and that they're kind enough to "show the way, to get you back home, to the peace where you belong." We're left in a sense of soothing ease, knowing that Young (with the help of the Young People's Chorus of New York City) will give us a way to find comfort and harmony at home.
After all, "there comes a time when you settle down", but "Chrome Dreams II" shows that even when you're settled, there's always more drifting to be done.
Eye Weekly by STUART BERMAN:
"Following the conceptual grandeur of Greendale, the post-aneurysm introspection of Prairie Wind and the flash-mob protest of Living With War, Chrome Dreams II arrives as the first Neil Young album in many harvest moons without any real unifying logic or purpose. Named as the sequel to a mid-'70s album that he never released, it thus plays like a grab bag of leftovers, split evenly between grunge grunts (“Dirty Old Man”), ersatz soul (“The Believer”) and folkie harmonica honks (“Beautiful Bluebird,” a veritable rewrite of Harvest's “Out on the Weekend”). But all that appears to be mere window dressing to prop up “Ordinary People,” a brass-blasted holdover from the late-'80s Bluetones era (complete with Lee Iacocca namedrop) that, in its unwaveringly repetitive nine-verse/18-minute sprawl, is either the most tedious or the most intensely passionate or the most hilariously audacious thing Neil's ever done. (Of course, he's earmarked it as the single.)"
Things I'd Rather Be Doing:
While "Ordinary People" is getting the most ink thanks to its 18-minute length and the fact that it's a leftover from the This Note's For You album, the last two tracks are the most meaningful for me. "The Hidden Path" is a 14-minute rambler that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Young's lesser Crazy Horse discs. But it's message, particularly in the lyric "Show me the way and I'll follow you today" perfectly sets up the next track, not so coincidentally called "The Way." There, Young is joined by a chorus of children who share the fact that they know "the way:" "We'll show the way to get you back home to the peace where you belong."
I've heard a lot of people give lectures recently who all point to the extraordinary differences between the current generation of young people and those preceding, my generation included. While most of us probably thought that we would be the generation to save the world from the ills foisted upon it by previous ones, we never seemed to get around to it. By all indications, this generation, which has grown up with unprecedented technology and the knowledge that things like global warming and religious-based strife are givens, is ready to do something about all of it. It has been heartening to hear about this, and I can only hope that these lecturers are right.
Young seems ready. While "The Hidden Path" might meander, it seems like a not-so-hidden aural metaphor for the aimless drift his generation and those that followed have found themselves on. They all wanted to change the world, but things never work out the way you planned. In frustration, his guitar wailing away in the background, he asks to be shown the way. On the next track, the children reassure him: We know the way. It's the kind of spiritual moment that Young has flailed about in search of for a few albums now. From the overreaching bombast of Greendale to the sweet but unfocused Prairie Wind, he always just missed the mark. He doesn't do so here with his most inspired music -- I long ago conceded the fact that while Young will always make albums worth hearing, the chances of him making another truly great album, more than a decade after his last, are slim -- his aim and his execution, coupled with geopolitical events, have rendered this one as meaningful as anything he's done despite the limitations.
From Stereophile by Robert Baird:
Whatever your feelings about either of Young's stylistic personalities, the combination of both on one record is brilliant. What's most undeniably impressive about Chrome Dreams II is the proof it offers that Neil Young is one of the few rock musicians of his generation who has not only survived, but thrives.
As for Thrasher's thoughts on CDII? On first listen, "Ordinary People", "Spirit Road" and "No Hidden Path", totally floored us. But we weren't expecting everything to floor us nor should we and that's OK. Afterall, how many times can someone turn out masterpieces like "Hurricane", "Cortez" or "Change Your Mind"? However, "No Hidden Path" has the potential to be in the upper tiers of all out jams.
It took us a little while to get our ears wrapped around TFA, TTN, & OTB upon release in the '70's. It took years to really appreciate the '80's work. We're still coming around on albums like AYP and S&G. But, hey, we loved Greendale & LWW from the get go, so go figure? The point being that it often takes awhile to truly appreciate what Neil's trying to do and the music to resonate. CDII is a mixed bag with '80's and '00's songs, but we somehow have a feeling that 10 years out this one will hold up too, pass the test of time and age well. The themes on the new songs are cohesively woven around the power of love, spiritual healing, and the divine unknown
And that all makes for a mighty fine Neil album, IMHO.
But what do we know? Last we checked, Chrome Dreams II was
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