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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

‘Are You Passionate?’ Turns 10 Years Old

Are You Passionate? by Neil Young
(Click photo to enlarge)

It's been ten years since the release of Neil Young’s Are You Passionate? album.

In the critics' game of "Hits & Misses", Are You Passionate? often falls into the category of "Misses". But is it finally time for a re-evaluation, like much of Young's back catalog that is classified as "Misses"?

Over at Ultimate Classic Rock Matthew Wilkening thinks so with the article "Neil Young’s ‘Are You Passionate?’ Turns 10 Years Old".
As the camouflage, rose and romantic portrait on the cover art indicates, the lyrics on many of this album’s 11 songs deal with familiar themes of love and war.

Young had toured with the famous instrumental R&B group [Booker T & the M.G.’s] as his backing band way back in the early ’90s, but it was nearly a decade before they released a record together.

Just in case you’re not clear who he’s working with, Young works musical quotes from the band’s 1969 hit ‘Time is Tight‘ into two tracks on the record — ‘Be With You’ and album opener ‘You’re My Girl.’

The Memphis Soul legends’ tight grooves and inherent professionalism provide an interesting contrast to Young’s untamed guitar on many of the songs, even if his vocals seem oddly polished on a couple of tracks.

More of Ultimate Classic Rock | "Neil Young’s ‘Are You Passionate?’ Turns 10 Years Old" by Matthew Wilkening.

As for trivia, the album's title is a homage to The Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967 album "Are You Experienced?". Also, the back cover lists song titles, all of which appear on CD except for "Gateway of Love". Go figure.

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At 4/11/2012 07:23:00 AM, Blogger wardo said...

It's one of those albums I put on once a year, just to make sure it gets attention and to see if it's improved at all. So far, this one hasn't. Except for "Goin' Home", which is just wonderful. (Full review here.)

At 4/11/2012 08:02:00 AM, Blogger JimDC821 said...

For me, this is one of those albums that ages well, in fact, when issued it was kind of yeasty and left a somewhat bitter taste, but upon resting on its lees, it has now mellowed into a rather fine vintage.

Contrary to the previous post, I really don't enjoy the version of "Goin' Home" on AYP (the version on the bootleg "Hurricane over the Mountain" is far superior). I also skip over "Let's Roll" - Neil's excursion into jingoism.

Highlights for me are "(Quit) Don't Say You Love Me"; "Are You Passionate", "When I Hold You In My Arms" and "She's A Healer".

A pretty good album, but not classic. 3.5 out of 5.

Rock On!

At 4/11/2012 09:11:00 AM, Blogger tim said...

More importantly Harvest turns 40;Harvest Moon turns 20. AYP needs no mention at all; it was a crappy sappy album. I'd rather Trans anyday.

At 4/11/2012 09:31:00 AM, Blogger AWM said...

I picked up this album as soon as I read that everyone panned it and I have loved it from that moment on. Silver & Gold is also great.

At 4/11/2012 10:03:00 AM, Blogger punkdavid said...

Booker T & the MGs playing Neil's music in 1993 was marvelous. Neil is always great with a tight backing band. But Neil trying to write music to fit Booker T's perceived style, it just didn't work. Apart from "She's A Healer", which is brilliant, the rest of the album seems sappy, sentimental, and somewhat contrived. Just thinking about the songs gives me a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. It marked the end of one of my peak Neil fandom periods, and probably helped to end it.

At 4/11/2012 10:35:00 AM, Blogger dickie said...

Still a big Neil fan, but totally agree with punkdavid on this one. The shows I saw with Booker T & the MGs were great, Neil seemed to get new energy from them, but the album was a non-starter.
Most of it feels like a throwback to Neils "incarnations" from the 80s. I prefer the real thing, even if it's a Fork In The Road..

At 4/11/2012 10:42:00 AM, Blogger dickie said...

@AWM: You'r right, Silver & Gold is a good album, underestimated at that. But it's a totally different thing from AYP. S&G is intimate Neil stuff, AYP is Neil trying to be someone else.

At 4/11/2012 01:04:00 PM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

I think that when Neil appeared on the 'Bob Dylan Anniversary Concert' he sensed the possibilities of what could do with Booker T behind him. He was the highlight of the show hands down playing 'Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues' and 'All Along The Watchtower'. When he toured with the MG's in 93 they proved to be versatile enough to support Neil. Although this record wasn't one of my favorites it did have it's moments. I put it in the same class as 'This Notes For You' with his approach to 'Blues & Soul'. I don't particularly care for Neil with horns. However, Neil had these songs and they never would have worked with Crazy Horse or probably any other band for that matter. Since the album was released he has done some of the tunes live with Crazy Horse that gave them new life. 'Are You Passionate', 'Goin Home', Don't Say You Love Me',and 'When I Hold You In My Arms' are highlights among a couple others. Ironically, 'Gateway Of Love', one of my concert favorites is listed on the cover but excluded from the album. I was going through a divorce at the time of it's release so 'Differently' and Mr Disappointment' struck a little too close to home. It's only fitting though to give it a spin today in honor of it's anniversary. Although it's not the greatest Neil Young recording, it still has held up better than some others like 'Fork In The Road' and 'Chrome Dreams II' . Maybe they need to simmer about 10 to 20 years as well before I can grow to appreciate them.

At 4/11/2012 02:52:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

AYP contnues to make the roation of studio albums I listen to, usually about every 6 months or so for a week or two at a time. It has a different feel than any other album Neil has put out and also seems to me to be a bit more direct to personal relationshiops and life reflections. Can seem a bit sappy based on content, but to me has a unique place in the catalog. I guess to answer the question, It is passionate. And with a teenage daughter now, "You're My Girl" is very close to home

At 4/11/2012 04:36:00 PM, Blogger Gassy Jack said...

I struggled to listen to AYP right through when it was released and haven't tried again since. Apart from "When I Hold You In My Arms" and "Goin Home" (which appears to have been tagged on at the end and doesn't fit with the rest of the album, albeit that's no bad thing!) this is a ghastly effort and no amount of Uncut/Mojo/Word/Rolling Stone type historical revisionism will save its reputation, at least for me

At 4/11/2012 05:50:00 PM, Blogger Bruno said...

Always love this album very much, i still listen to it from time to time. Can't explain why but this album touched me. This strange mix of Soul'n'Roll is unique. Between Trans and this one, i vote this one. "Trans" and "Landing On Water" are the baddest for me (sorry tim)

At 4/11/2012 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I thought the songs sounded like his earlier stuff when he was trying to write Motown. Gateway of Love sounded like a cross between Green Onion and Sultan. When I heard them do the songs it dawned on me that the Crazy Horse I loved when I was growing up was gone forever. I changed my mind after Greendale after thinking it would always remain a state of mind.

At 4/12/2012 01:01:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I knew even before I read these comments, and there are some really interesting points here, that I would be in the minority on AYP. I just know that I like listening to it.

Is Neil completely at home in Stax/Volt, anymore than he was completely at home in any other of his musical "sojourns"? Umm, no, not strictly speaking. Like most people, I think he's probably completely at home performing solo acoustic, or Crazy Horse style full on electric workouts.

However, I still maintain that Neil is at home in his approach to AYP. Like all of Neil's hard turns, it can be likened to an acting "stretch", in which the method actor takes on a new and challenging role by calling upon an inner experience to arrive at a deeply personal interpretation, unique from anything anyone else could produce. I think Neil puts his heart and soul into these projects, and even when they “hit a bad chord”, there’s always something interesting that results. For me AYP is full of interesting moments, starting with the opening number “You’re My Girl”, through some highly creative guitar work, heart felt lyrics, and many more moments besides.

We’ve been ‘round and ‘round on this many times before, debating the appropriateness of Neil’s musical choices, and the way they come off in terms of sound and listening impact. Some people like it and some people don’t, which is fine, I just always like to consider the intent, which I don’t think most people ever really call into question too much. In the end, it still comes down to whether or not people like it tho, and when it comes to AYP, I do.

A Friend Of Yours

At 4/12/2012 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

I love most of what Neil does, but have found it hard to get into this one. Each time I've put the album on, I've thought the musicianship was quite good, but the presentation as a whole seemed overly slick, somewhat bland, uninspired or canned sounding.

I'm going to have to play it again and see if I can get into it. Now and then, I read something from someone who thinks of it as a high point. So there must be something right about it that I haven't figured out yet.

At 4/13/2012 09:33:00 AM, Blogger BIGCHIEF said...

The 'high point' is 'Goin Home' after all of the times I've listened to it I still can't get used to the ending!

At 4/13/2012 11:17:00 AM, Blogger VirtualCampfire said...

I'm glad he made this record. The best songs to my ears are the first four songs and then When I Hold You in My Arms. Seems like there are several songs that could be about his daughter. Am I the only fan of "Differently"? There's no other Neil song quite like it, and sometimes I like to play it very loud indeed.

At 4/14/2012 03:03:00 PM, Blogger D. I. Kertis said...

Neat thread, as I've come to regard this as an album with its own special place. The title track is actually one of my favorite NY songs of the 2000s. Although it's very personal, but I think it's also as much about 9-11 as Let's Roll ("a world that never stops/turning on you/turning on me", and most obviously the countermelody verse beginning with "Once I was a soldier..."). AYP?, for me, is one of those tracks that plays almost like a poem set to music. I like Goin' Home, too, but the title is definitely my favorite track here. The last couple tracks also appeal. Even though She's a Healer is a long one based on a repetitive riff, I love the overall sound of it--NY grunge crossed with Booker T's highly jazz-influenced Mowtown sound. If nothing else, this one of the more musically experimental, fusion-oriented albums, and Healer seems to define its sound the most strongly. Maybe it's because I tend to enjoy exploring many different musical styles (I.e. Not a fan of just electric Crazy Horse or only acoustic folksy) that this album is interesting to me. Mr. Disappointment and Differently also stand out in this regard, as does Quit to a degree (I can understand the lyrics being seen as somewhat hackneyed, but the collage of guitar and keyboard is very evocative on its own at times). Like others, I sometimes skip Let's Roll, not so much because I think it is terribly jingoistic (though I can certainly understand how it might come off that way), but because the subject matter is unpleasant, which is compounded by the very heavy-handed approach, and it has some outstanding lines, but really isn't that great a song in my opinion.

On a related note, thinking about this makes me wish Neil would release Toast, which I seem to remember hearing was being prepared back in 2009, about the time Fork in the Road was coming out. Given that it was the project directly preceded AYP?, and that Goin' Home was recorded during those abandoned sessions, it seems like it might make an interesting companion piece, provided that it ever finds its way out of the vault.

--D.I. Kertis

At 4/14/2012 03:58:00 PM, Blogger D. I. Kertis said...

Not to clog up the board, but another thing I wanted to mention having a massive post: the alternate track listing provided by following those notecards shown on the back cover, minus the unreleaed Gateway to Love (which I hope is on Toast, crossing fingers again). I actually iTunes to place the tracks in this order, with interesting, certainly not-bad results. I'm assuming anyone interested in doing this themselves owns the CD (or images can probably be found online), so I won't type out the entire sequence unless anybody asks, but for reference, note that I followed the cards horizontally rather than vertically (i.e. Left to right by rows, rather than by columns).

I find this order makes the album darker and heavier, and potentially less commercial. It's bookended by When I Hold You in my Arms and Quit (Don't Say You Love Me) respectively, which drew out some lyrical and musically connections between the two that I hadn't thought about much before and makes the album seem more tightly structured and much more conceptual. But the most radical change is to move Healer from being the album's finale to track 2. But I was surprised how much this started to click after one or two playbacks. I'll let others try it on their own, but suffice it to say that Healer is given two very different lyrical/musical contexts depending on which order one chooses, and in my opinion the most impressive and interesting part is that both musical roles make complete sense.

Like I said, though, it's also a tonally darker, possibly edgier album this way. Let's Roll and the title track are still placed back to back exactly as on the original, but are sequenced immediately before Quit, meaning the whole album is now a buil-up to its darkest tracks, especially the title track, which also effectively becomes the climax. Whether or not this is desirable really depends on personal preference, and to be honest, I could probably argue either side of that depending on which way the wind is blowing. So I'll leave everyone else to make their own assessments as they wish to. I just encourage other Neil fans to try it, especially if the album doesn't appeal much in the official sequence. I have a hunch the notecard picture may show this as a sequence that was considered for release before Gateway was dropped, especially because I remember a description of them shuffling notecards to determine the sequence for Harvest Moon somewhere in Neil.s authorized biography. And in an ideal world, we might be able to in include Gateway to Love in the sequence, but for now this will have to do : )

D. I.Kertis

At 4/14/2012 04:00:00 PM, Blogger D. I. Kertis said...

Just to let Virtual know, I enjoy Differently as well. Its title is cleverly apt, isn't it?

At 4/14/2012 07:55:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Clever that you turned it into a board game for Young's music lovers, DIK.


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