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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Album Review: Neil Young - "Americana" - Premier Guitar

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
(Click photo to enlarge)

An album review of "Americana" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse from Premier Guitar by Charles Saufley:
Complain all you want that Neil Young—easily one of the 10 greatest songwriters of the rock ’n’ roll era—hasn’t written a classic album in years. But to define late-model Young via the recorded output of the last decade is to ignore guitar and vocal performances as incendiary, confrontational, and irreverent as ever. On Americana, Young frees himself from the constraints of original material, focusing instead on the textures and raw, adrenal possibilities of his greatest band, Crazy Horse, and a fistful of American folk standards. Like so much that Young does, the concept borders on the perverse, which is precisely why it’s such a kick in the ass.

Those looking for technical sorcery and smooth production need not read further. This is Neil and the Horse at their crustiest. But it’s more than Neil’s production nihilism and antipathy toward slickness that makes this record remarkable. Young and Co. approach and reinterpret these songs with arrangements that are often revelations. Take the schoolhouse classic, “Oh Susannah,” which becomes a funky and chugging minor-key stomp rivaling the barbarism of Neil’s old ’66 Sunset Strip, fuzz-punk compatriots The Seeds. The miner tragedy, “Clementine,” is pervaded with darkness and desperation that conjures images of the protagonist as a grimy mechanic mourning the drowning of his love—“Down by the River” revisited, perhaps? Meanwhile, the classic Carolina murder ballad of Tom Dula (aka “Tom Dooley”)—blunted in the popular imagination by the Kingston Trio’s polite banjo version—is rendered tragic, brutal, and menacing on the back of Young’s wailing Deluxe and the zombie march rhythms of Crazy Horse.

Listen to Album Premiere: 'Americana' by Neil Young and Crazy Horse | Rolling Stone.

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At 5/30/2012 07:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Full Americana stream here

At 5/30/2012 09:39:00 AM, Anonymous The Zuma Band said...

The trouble with contemporary life is that everyone thinks they are a discerning critic. Just look up local restaurant reviews on Yelp.

One has to become adept at separating valid comments from self important trolling.

"American" is a serious, yet fun album. Great sound, production, harmonies. The choir is used properly and judiciously. The guitar work is loose yet focused. After the darkness of the first three tracks the mood is (relatively) lightened by the almost Cab Calloway presentation of "Gallows Pole," followed by the more raucous stomp of "Travel On."

No, it's not "original" material, but it is being interpreted in an original way. I've always wondered what NY would do if he decided to do an album of covers, and this makes perfect sense. I think that this also took the burden off of him for this initial foray back together with Crazy Horse. They're sharing the material and not being burdened by having to fulfill his vision. I assume that this album is serving as the staging ground for what comes next.

I've found I resisted each song, but then find they get in my head and I have to go back for another spin. That's what defines good music for me. Oh, except for GSTQ. That I can do without. If you can't top the Sex Pistols (I know, a different song, but still..), don't bother.

At 5/30/2012 09:46:00 AM, Anonymous Alex said...

uhhh that line about him releasing crappy albums nowadays. It's such bullcrap. Le Noise? CD2? LWW? Prairie Wind?

At 5/30/2012 12:54:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

This is a fair-minded review.

One thing I noted is how the reviewer states his opinion that Neil doesn't write at quite the level of quality that he used to without resorting to angry, hateful, incendiary language.

That is, while praising this album, he politely states that he doesn't believe Neil "pens a classic" as much these days.

Note that he doesn't say anything about "pieces of crap" or "horribly written songs", or scoff in haughty disdain at Neil's fanciful concept albums and conceits.

This is what you call a real writer. Someone who is able to deliver a balanced OPINION and offer a fair assessment of the artist during his review without resorting to mindless character assassination or ad-hominem attack style journalism.

It's quite refreshing, to be honest. Even if I do disagree with the general premise. I personally think that the 2000's have been a relatively prolific period for Neil in terms of artistic achievements, filled with unbridled imaginative wildness and creativity. But I can stomach this guy's assessment because it's delivered with respect.

I'm looking forward to getting Americana, and whatever comes next!

At 5/30/2012 07:13:00 PM, Blogger Raincheck said...

So Neil. An instant album of covers while CSN have spent many many months not getting a covers album done.

You have to just get the vibe and go with it.

At 5/30/2012 10:34:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Its not hateful or angry or extreme, perhaps that means 'balanced' but if he doesn't see the genius of the past 10 years output he's not really plugged in ... I'm not talking about every single album but Le Noise ?? Prarie Wind? CD II?? its beeb prolific ... compared to past decades? who cares ... its been a very good ten years ... my complaint with the 'review' is that he's a typical reviewer ... thinks that if there aren't a few backhanded compliments he's not a critic ... I don't need someone to fawn all over it in a fanatical way but to me its a typical, bland, boring, one dimentional review of a multi dimentional artist and as such misses the mark ... IMHO

All that said, I agree that the respectfulness is refreshing and more than one can say about my post above which admittedly is a bit of a snarky review of his review

At 5/31/2012 07:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least he probably knows how to spell "dimensional."

At 5/31/2012 08:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this blog is a great homage to someone dead a long time by RnR standards. he sold out to the man & money a long time ago. all that's left is a crusty shell left in the oven b/c the chef went on permanent vacation.

At 5/31/2012 09:25:00 AM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Dan, I agree with you overall.

I even think Fork in the Road is a rocking, creative, spirited effort, and listen to it often.

The 2000's have been good to Neil - I think it's one of his most productive decades artistically. Le Noise, CDII, Greendale, you name it, all fantastic records.

Also, IMO, reviewers are the only people who deserve to be scathingly reviewed. It's important that people like us are out there reviewing the reviewers. Maybe it keeps them somewhat in line.

I remember when FITR came out, some online reviews (albeit not from highly respected sources (Though the Village Voice should have better quality control, IMO)) were so inflammatory and hateful. It was disgusting that people would treat Neil the way they did.

Which is why I enjoy balanced reviews from respectful people, whether I agree with them or not.

At 5/31/2012 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Right on Matthew, I'm with you 100%.

Anon, and at least he's willing to identify himself rather than hide behind an anon handle

At 6/01/2012 08:11:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Since they started to release the new songs I can't get them out of my head. I have no clue how many times I have watched the videos. lol I'm constantly singing them and laughing to myself. The way I feel listing to the songs is the true review for me.

At 6/01/2012 09:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greendale continues to be one of my favorites.

At 6/08/2012 04:37:00 PM, Anonymous Roger said...

Here's The Goldenhearts rocking version of Clemente for the Cover an American Classic for Neil Young:
We aslo made an EPIC video at:
Thanks for listening, watching and hopefully, voting!


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