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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Album Review of the Moment: Psychedelic Pill |

"Driftin' Back" Artwork
"Psychedelic Pill" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

#1, #2 on Amazon Top 100 List

The Album Review of the Moment on Psychedelic Pill by Neil Young & Crazy Horse will probably take some heat from Bob Dylan fans by suggesting that Tempest is half-asleep compared to Psychedelic Pill.

But such is life...

From - Need We Say More? > Reviews > CDs > Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill by Brian Robbins:
Well, there: here’s the album for all of those who complained that Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Americana was made up of covers when it was released back in June. (Of course, the songs were twisted and cranked by Young and company into shapes and forms of their own unique design, but you know how some folks are, eh?) The nine tracks on the new double-disc Psychedelic Pill (eight originals plus an alternate mix of the title track) are all original NY & CH tunes – as NY & CH as it gets. Young has had some brilliant collaborators over the years (the late Ben Keith being one of the best and most unique), but when it comes to simply rolling up the sleeves and getting down to it, drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot, and guitarist Frank Sampedro are Young’s go-to team.

Always have been; always will be.


In “Twisted Road” Young tells us how hearing Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” nailed him right between the ears when he first heard it: “I felt that magic and took it home/Gave it a twist and made it mine/But nothing was as good as the very first time.” As we approach 50 years since the release of that particular Dylan classic, it’s interesting to compare where the two artists are these days. Dylan’s new Tempest album feels like the work of Uncle Bob the entertainer and his hot-shot band, strolling through a set of tunes that feel comfy and easy for him. Young, on the other hand, comes across as engaged, fierce, and intrigued by his own musical muse – playing the hell out of the songs on Psychedelic Pill and knowing just the right players to do it with.

“I want to walk like a giant on the land,” sings Young in the sixteen-and-a-half minute squall-and-roar-fest towards the album’s end.

Mission accomplished.
Thanks Brian! Let's hope that Dylan fans don't get too stirred up by your review. ;)

Read full review on

More reviews compiled on EARLY REACTION: "Psychedelic Pill" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

And -- of course -- more on that rather unnecessary faux rivalry, yet fascinating, debate of Bob Dylan vs Neil Young.

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At 11/03/2012 11:54:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

and rolling stone magazine slobbers all over bob's knob once again. if bob puts out an album of farts it gets an automatic 5 star review (bruce too). neil towers above both of them, yet he gets 4 stars.

At 11/03/2012 02:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both albums are very good. Why not just leave it at that?

At 11/03/2012 03:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Tempest is great. On this site Neil is going to get more praise, no doubt. Psychadelic Pill blows my mind. It's funny how the two are so often pitted against each other even though they're both friends and fans of each other's music. All in all I think Dylan is in a more comfortable place while it seems that for Neil much more is at stake. With his health and the spectre of dementia/alzheimer's on the horizon he's putting everything he has into this tour, and it shows on the record and in the songs

At 11/03/2012 04:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a point in reponse to Rolling Stone giving Springsteen and Dylan 5 stars and Jack White only 41/2 stars for his great album Blunderbus.I figured when it was NY's turn no matter how great his album was he wasn't getting a five star album.RS is feeling guilty for slighting JW.

At 11/03/2012 05:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody see the Drifin' Back video yet? Some "home movie" footage of early Young from maybe 1972 Harvest era. Never seen the footage before.
I don't think Tempest was a 5 star album, still very good maybe a 4. Springsteen's certainly wasn't, easliy a 3 at a push. Psychedelic Pill is without doubt a 5 star album

At 11/03/2012 06:27:00 PM, Blogger La Johnson said...

'For The Love of Man' lyrics are clunky - Neil even rhymes Roy with Joy on Twisted Raod - ok it's Neil and his Sacred Horse but some of the lyrics clunk along like one of Neil's toy trains. I am a fan !

At 11/03/2012 09:31:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Both 'Tempest' and 'Psychedelic Pill' good and interesting albums (so far; disclaimer: I am still working through both). 'Tempest' has made me more interested in Dylan than I've been for a while. Also, four stars (from Rolling Stone for PP) means "good" and is probably a fair rating for this album, to be honest. Although I do see the Dylan-worship issue, when it comes down to it I'm a fan of both artist/songwriters, and magazine reviews don't really matter to me other than the casual interest I have in surveying general opinion. It is interesting to look at how an artist's various works are received, by both the public/fans and critics, but I don't really care that much what Rolling Stone (or any periodical) thinks. At least, I don't see fit to devote any energy to being pissed off about a four star rating, compared to how Neil's work has been savaged in the past, including by the fans on this very site. Anyone remember the 'Fork in the Road' debacle? At least we're not in that place all over again. I dread the day when we see a repeat of that performance, as Neil is bound to eventually release another album(s) that will be more offbeat (like FITR--I still stand by my opinion that that one didn't deserve to be absolutely mauled as it was by some, but I think "offbeat", or "quirky", is the best word for it) that won't be as well-liked.

At 11/03/2012 09:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another music forum discussing Psychedelic Pill, someone commented that over time Neil has lost interest in writing lyrics and Dylan has lost interest in writing music.

Neil is as great a musician as ever but I agree that his lyrics over the past decade have gotten progressively worse. I'm still drawn to Neil's melodies and the sound of the music he makes but I've found it increasingly difficult to connect to many of his recent songs because the words just don't resonate with me. Or worse, they are sometimes so bad that they ruin an otherwise great song, which is a shame.


At 11/04/2012 12:10:00 AM, Anonymous LRR said...

neil doesn't "write lyrics". he just uses the first ones which come to his mind. that's the muse speaking...

At 11/04/2012 12:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe so, but the muse ain't what it used to be.

At 11/04/2012 02:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the lyrics to PP and Prairie Wind. Driftin' Back is a stream of consciousness song of the type Bob Dylan used to do. Upon repeat listens its clear that there's a common thread between the verses about the Maharishi, MP3's and Picasso wallpaper. He's talking about the cheapening of things. Art.Religion. There are two other versus that straight up evoke religious figures-one about Jesus and the other about pagans. Without getting too highfalutin' I think he's talking about trying to hold onto spiritual values in an increasingly commercialized society. I don't think he just makes things up with no thought anymore. That's the idea behind Driftin' Back and there's nothing bad or lame about it.
I like what he represents in DB and elsewhere. His quest for the electric car. His quest for perfect sound. The Bridge School. His protest albums. Carrying the sixties flag.
Aside from that PP is well thought out. Its about the sixties and Ramada Inn is about an elderly couple that's been through the alcohol wars. Then there's the two young boho women in PP ans SAD with the odd dark line to keep things interesting. Twisted Road references Dylan and the Dead and the two blockbuster cuts that frame the album bring the sixties story up to date. Greil Marcus once said something to the effect that being American the ideals are so utopian that you're always looking back on the mistakes and the failures and what might have been. The same thing can be said about the sixties generation and that's the meat of PP. It carries more meaning than something like Zuma and its the lyrics that deliver that.
As for Prarie Wind I think the lyrics are better than Harvest or Harvest Moon. The earlier albums have their moments but for a sustained piece of writing over a 30 or 40 minute stretch about a theme...Its unfortunate that Neil's father had to pass away for PW to happen but I never got hooked on the other albums like I did PW because I felt he was moon june spooning it too much.
I value PP,PW, Fork in the Road and Americana as much as anything he's done.

At 11/04/2012 05:30:00 AM, Blogger joelookout said...

Dear friends, I would not bother that much about what Neil's Lyrics are now compared to before. He wrote Thrashers but also Saddle up the Palomino,he wrote Ordinary People but also T-Bone, he wrote Ambulance Blues, Cortez the Killer, but also Vampire Blues and Opera Star....I got the impression that Neil, maybe, is more interested now in putting Lyrics on books rather than songs, but Ramada Inn and Walk like a Giant are some of his best songs ever, no matter what the lyrics are!!!. Have a good and peaceful Sunday.

At 11/04/2012 07:04:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Look Out Mama, I agree about the lyrics. The record should have been 45 minutes long with only 3 songs WLAG, RI & DB. I can without the title track and For The Love of Man which are awful

At 11/04/2012 08:04:00 AM, Blogger kahunasunset said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/04/2012 05:09:00 PM, Anonymous Sandy Horne said...

Just got my copy yesterday. Listening to it for the second time as I write this. But having gone to both nights at Red Rocks and of course the "previews" that have been released, I do have some background on several of the songs.

with me, listening to Neil's music has always been an emotional experience. What matters is how it makes me FEEL... And I'm feeling it.. I have never really had the ability to break a song down into the lyrics and the music and look at it analytically.. It either moves me or it doesn't. Just like with poetry, the words are pointless if they don't create an impression in the reader/listener.

So in my clumsy way, I guess I am trying to say that this music strikes a chord in me. I find it to be extremely personal and it is as if he is at a point in his life where he will let us in his world in ways that were impossible for him before.

It is a gift to us. When someone gives me a gift, I humbly accept it with an appreciative heart.

I am very emotional right now...

Peace, Sandy

At 11/04/2012 07:00:00 PM, Anonymous Sandy Horne said...

Oh wait! I do have a complaint!! what is the deal with the microscopic paper booklet they call a Lyric Sheet!! LOL I had to use a magnifying glass with a light in it and I STILL couldn't make out all of the lyrics. I am going to take it into work tomorrow and enlarge it!! geez...


At 11/04/2012 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Old Black said...

I keep going to Ramada Inn - it has a whole feeling that really hits me I'n the gut - especially at 30,000 feet over Wyoming. I think I've listened to it 30 times since I got the CD on Tuesday. It is a GREAT song. You cannot take the lyrics out of the context of the groove.

At 11/05/2012 04:17:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

La Johnson--Can we at least expand the album to 55 minutes and include 'She's Always Dancing'? Personally, I would probably put SAD ahead of DB in terms of preference, but I'm looking for common ground here. I liked 'For the Love of Man'--although I think it took two or three listenings for it to really work. I'm not sure why it's been withheld this long, as I think it would only have enhanced any one of Neil's '80s albums. It would also have fit well on 'Chrome Dreams II', which was a recent big favorite of mine along with 'Le Noise'. Neil has a tradition of taking an intense electric album and slotting in a quiet, slow, soft number right before the grand finale or album's end. 'Needle and the Damage Done' would be an early example. More recently, we've had the beautiful 'Music Arcade', along with 'Light a Candle', which I thought was a highlight of 'Fork in the Road', 'Peaceful Valley Boulevard', and even 'Wayfaring Stranger' from that album from last spring that some people seem to want to forget now...

Anyhow, I've been paying some attention to Neil's album sequencing tendencies and it's interesting to me how he creates structure through and between the songs songs, which are often quite different from one another if taken as individual pieces. The other interesting tendency here is that, if there's a titular track (which often there is with Neil; I guess, after forty years of coming up with names, it makes it easier to name an album that way if you have a song title that's apropos for the entire set), that track is usually either the second or sixth track. There are some interesting exceptions that shouldn't be overlooked. For instance, I think 'Fork in the Road' marks the only occasion when the title track ended the album. But in many other cases, Neil has spent the past decade making the sixth track a focal or central point of an album. Maybe this has come along as he's started to move from LP to CD sequencing: still working with usually ten to eleven tracks, but not having two separate sides of music. Look at albums like 'Are You Passionate?' and 'Prairie Wind'. Track six--the core. Even albums where track six isn't the title track tend to build up to track six, then start from track seven almost as though it's the beginning of a new side or section. See 'Greendale' (with the excellent 'Bandit') and 'Living With War'.

This leads me (finally) back to PP, since Young is back to sequencing the title track second, possibly because there are only four tracks on disc one! I wouldn't describe the song 'Psychedelic Pill' as awful, although the lyrics made me wonder how it would work out. And I do think you have to listen to the original mix, not the alternative at the end of the album, to gain the full effect. It's all about "looking for good times", and a healthier alternative to a literal psychedelic pill. As the song implies, no doctor (or pusher) can prescribe a pill like that. I just love the sound and the vibes of this track, and as of right now I think I like it more than 'Born in Ontario' or 'Twisted Road'. Same with 'For the Love of Man'. Of course, it is all a matter of opinion. And I do agree that 'Walk Like a Giant' is a great sign of creative vitality and one of the hugest things Neil's come out with for a while.

Overall, the album seems like a mix of 'Ragged Glory', 'Broken Arrow', and a few touches of 'Re-Act-Or', along with touches of all of the more recent album, and while Crazy Horse is often referred to diminutive as "The Horse", I think this recording puts the "Crazy" in the band's name. This is Crazy Horse meeting Neil's twenty-first century artistic compass, and it is good to have the former aspect back.


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