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Sunday, June 26, 2016

REVIEWS: EARTH by Neil Young + Promise of the Real

Neil Young's "Earth" (cover)
(Click photo to enlarge)

A very enjoyable review of the new album EARTH by Neil Young + Promise of the Real from Paste by Douglas Heselgrave.

Here's a setup mid review, but be sure to check the beginning and end of the very thorough, well thought review...
This might be the perfect time for a confession of sorts. You see, Neil Young, nature recordings and I go a long way back. In one of those rare instances where life imitates art, I got the jump on the Earth album concept about 30 years ago when I was still a university student. My record player was broken, and one Sunday afternoon I was at my parents’ house transferring Young’s Live Rust from vinyl onto a cassette. I was broke, so I decided to tape over an old National Geographic Songs of the Humpback Whale cassette that my brother used for a science project many years ago rather than go out and buy new cassettes that I couldn’t afford. Something went wrong, however, and when I popped Live Rust into the car tape deck, Neil Young’s voice came out of the right speaker, but there was something wrong with the left channel. I could still hear the whale songs.

At first, I was pissed off because I would have to re-tape the album, but three songs later, by the time I had driven home, I started to think that the tape sounded pretty good and that Neil and the humpbacks weren’t such a bad fit. Especially on “Cortez the Killer”—the whale’s mournful cries seemed to echo the fate of the Aztecs as they succumbed to the terrors of invasions. Over the next 20 years or so, while driving late at night or on those special occasions when we’d been digging deep into the tickle trunk for medicine and listened to Neil and the whales with the lights off, the connections between Young’s music and nature took on an almost mystical quality. When I told Neil Young’s publicist this story a few weeks ago, he asked me to look for the cassette to send him a copy, but sadly after much scrambling around in the basement, I realize that, like so many other things, it’s been lost to time. I like to imagine the person who has the tape now putting it on and wondering what the hell they’re listening to.
Again, check full review in Paste by Douglas Heselgrave.

Other meta review (via Rusted Moon):

  • Lynne Margolis, American songwriter: "Sometimes it exceeds the expectations Who would have thought that a heavenly children's choir and a softer piano." After the gold rush "can make you more beautiful Youngs wave but beguiling vocals, accompanied especially by his acoustic guitar playing? and harmonica, give two other vintage tracks - 'Human Highway' and 'Western Hero' - a similar beauty ". 3 stars
  • Adrian Thrills, Daily Mail: ". The simpler songs work best 'Mother Earth' - the 'a world governed by greed' complains - is driven by driving Keyboards, thunderclaps and a chorus of frogs." 3 of 5
  • Will Hodgkinson, The Times:  "There is a threatening atmosphere in this strange, thrilling album." 4 of 5
  • Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY: "Although Young on EARTH is his righteous anger openly displayed - everyone who thinks he's cranky, will anyway not be swayed - there are moments wonderful grace and uninhibited gratitude as' Wolf Moon 'by' Monsanto '. Its beautiful acoustic arrangement is embellished here with glowing harmonies. "
  • Joe Breen, The Irish Times: "Typically, it drives Young at the top - but that's one of the characteristics that make him so endearing." 4 of 5 stars
  • Douglas Hesel Grave, Paste Magazine:  "For whatever reason, 'EARTH' is a captivating, very credible recording that stands on its own it is from start to finish, bold, uncompromising, but funny and beautiful as the landscapes.. he sings, is 'EARTH' a gnarled old oak of an album that is made ​​to last. Not for beginners or slightly frightening. " 8.8 out of 10
  • Doug Collete, All About Jazz: " 'Human Highway' is as close to the classic Neil Young sound like the piano and the superimposed voices on 'after the gold rush' The effects do not fall on so much because they are not sustainable. . their use seems to be a concession to the public -., hoping to draw the interest of listeners to its newer, socially critical compositions " 3.5 of 4
  • Alex Tuck, Asbury Park Press: "On the whole, it is remarkable how well 'EARTH' works Youngs setlist manages to illuminate a subject that his work determined for decades on a large scale and the unconventional presentation shows how Young already.. has always played for the earth, both in their name and for their entertainment - all together ".
  • Udo Raaf, "Purists deterred so much obvious reworking, Young wants to probably set an example and make audible what other artists are trying discreetly to conceal, such as a plastic surgery." 5 out of 6 stars
  • Miachel fungus THE WORLD: "music that you can not just stream. One piece is for half an hour between the pieces ensure its animals that the algorithms for the breaks to be outwitted There is no more silence There are.. again an album with an idea. "
  • David Fricke, Rolling Stone: "It is as if you would get the 1991 album 'WELD', taken at Farm Aid with the fervor of 'Freedom'." 3.5 of 5 stars
  • Jim Farber, Entertainment Weekly: "The band has a dynamic that differs from Youngs Lanzeitverbündeten 'Crazy Horse': 'Promise of the Real' have the advantage of a second lead guitar, which contrasts Youngs wild shriek with sleeker lines." B -
  • Sam Sodomsky, Pitchfork: "It does not come as a by Neil final works, therefore, but with EARTH Young achieved something that he did not make his albums for a while: He has made ​​an album that is worth it, for a time long to deal with it. " 6.5 out of 10
  • Lee Zimmerman, Glide Magazine: ". These songs are striking in the musical sense Young, never the most dynamic singers, here is remarkably expressive." 8 of 10
  • Tyrolean newspaper: "Promise of the Real are respectful to the material, but interpret it strong and refreshing, creating a bridge between Young evergreens, rarities and new."
  • Andreas Rauschal, Wiener Zeitung: "Between the einläutenden Harmonium version of" Mother Earth "and the 28-minute freakout with" Love And Only Love "at the end sound the ducks at" Country Home "short as free jazz saxophones, sometimes you can hear rhythmic Raben and swarms of flies mimic applause, mostly our animal friends are but also extra-musical accessories as the interspersed as a counterpoint traffic noise. "
  • Scott Bauer, Associated Press: " How stupid may sound all the animal sounds, the end result is a strangely hypnotic ode to Mother Earth, a way back into the garden, if you will, for an artist who has so much of his career has spent to sing against environmental degradation. "

Labels: , ,


At 6/26/2016 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Pabst said...

I'm only 3 songs into the album and while the overdubs are a bit... odd... Seed Justice kicks ass. I hope Neil goes back into the studio with POTR, because they are so much better now.

But even with the weird overdubs, this is still really really good and I can appreciate the overdubs since it makes it more than a typical live album. I just wish Mother Earth had been left alone without the backing vocals. Oh well, can't win 'em all!

Can't wait to see them again in a few weeks!

At 6/26/2016 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Google translations, or have critics everywhere suddenly lost their sense of syntax?

At 6/26/2016 03:25:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Pabst - yes, hopefully Neil does go back into the studio with POTR. we can see this being the continuation of a beautiful friendship.

@ Babbo B. - hmm, you're right. So what's going on here is that the original source (Rusted Moon) translated the English to German. Then we re-translated that back to English so that's why these clips are awkward.

Just go to the link to see original English to see how well Google translates. Just like all robots, it sure ain't the real deal (and most of the time not even close to flesh and blood).

At 6/26/2016 03:35:00 PM, Blogger Pabst said...

After another full listen, I barely notice the animal sounds.

My dogs, on the other hand, are not fans.

At 6/26/2016 04:17:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Here's a glowing review, with a sample excerpt below that ends the review:

Mother Nature’s not only on the run, she’s lashing out, striking back in a desperate struggle to stay alive and sustain life on this fragile speck in space that is the planet we live on. Neil Young cares enough for her and us to – as he often does – throw career considerations aside and try his best to motivate those already converted and maybe even change the minds of a few more.

The alliance with a young and spunky band on EARTH yields enough barrels of rock rebel piss and vinegar and pyres of righteous fire and brimstone to cut one of Young’s highest flights yet in his 47 years of artistry under his solo banner. Over those years he has zigged and zagged in his collaborations as his muse has beckoned; right now his union with POTR begs but four words: Long may they run.

At 6/27/2016 03:13:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

So I've finally sussed how to download the HiRes file, had to download on my Windows laptop, transfer to Dropbox then open on my Mac. Was all set up to listen on my iPod today on the train to London, only to discover that the sample rate is so high that it won't play on my iPod. Haha. So I am now listening on my Mac via my Bose Soundlink mini speaker. so here goes, my first listen of Earth coming up....

@Pabst Very funny, my Bearded Collie is equally as unimpressed.

At 6/27/2016 04:04:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

Further update on my wows with this HiRes download, I can convert to AAC in iTunes and play on my iPod. Whoop.

Seven tracks in and loving it. So far I'm not finding the Earth noises distracting at all.

At 6/27/2016 07:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I get this album. It's on my wavelength.

To be clear, this isn't best interpreted as a live album, a concert souvenir. And to be honest, would a "normal" live album from 2015 really be such an exciting prospect, in the wider scheme of things? These raw performances are respectable enough, for sure, but if you 'just' want a great live album of top-class live performances, stop wasting time and put on something from 1991.

But this record is so much more than that, in some ways; more far-reaching, more ambitious, more creative. All the "extra stuff" (that people are so unsure about) is the whole point.

I'll mention now that this is a very dynamic record. You really have to crank it up, and then it comes to life. Hippie Dream simmers away at moderate volume, and then suddenly has you by the throat.

The Vampire in Vampire Blues is a particularly vicious character here. Almost as vicious as Neil's frenzied lead guitar playing on Hippie Dream (one of a few moments on this album that feel truly reminiscent of the masterpiece that is Weld). This violence all feels a million miles away from those nature sounds. And that's surely part of the point.

Rather than being a distraction, it's the integration of all the wildly-creative overdubs and animal sounds that allow this album to punch solidly above its weight. The field recordings are charming and soothing; the auto-tuned backing vocals are strangely moving. It's a very "wide" record that captures a lot. Beauty and ugliness combined: and it's not always clear from the outset which is which. That is, until Neil makes it obvious, as the songs break down into chaos.

For example, Monsanto Years, where the sound is so purposefully dis-jointed (and the overdubs so purposefully overdone) that you feel like the world is collapsing around you, like a hole is being torn in the fabric of time and space. You feel like you've been turned inside out. There are some great sounds, a great cross-section of life in all its forms.

It's scrappy, it's messy, it's fun; it has the same wild abandon (and the same happy appeal) as a painting done by a young child.

That's what he's done. He's combined the wisdom and shrewd observations of an old man with the joyous expressiveness of a small child. That reminds me of Greendale. No small accomplishment. Something to be proud of.

I'd like to send a copy of this review to Neil. I would get some satisfaction from saying to him "yes, I get this. You've got through to me. You've built something for me".

And I think he'd get some satisfaction from hearing that, too.

Thanks all.


At 6/27/2016 10:44:00 AM, Blogger Pocahontas said...

Listened to it twice through. I find some of the insect and animal noises jarring at times and out of context. It interrupts the listening pleasure rather than adds. The rain and ocean sounds are a better fit. The vanilla singers are good addition for the most part. I think he should have waited until the European tour was over and made a live album with POTR from the best cuts, as they are tighter now, with less overdubbing. It's a little overdone. For me simpler is better. This album would be better without buzzing bees and car horns in the same way Letters from Home would have been better without the scratchy low fi that robbed that album of its tenderness and meaning.

At 6/27/2016 11:28:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

So far I've only been able to listen to Earth in fits and starts and am just about midway through the finale, Love and Only Love. Like Scots, I feel that Neil is communicating to us on multiple levels through musical, lyrical and aural visions juxtaposing the absurdity of current affairs with the hippie dream Neil has always chased.

Clean lines intersect with sloppy abstract mirages throughout, sending us down divergent roads leading to the same place. The weaker songs here (some may argue which ones) find new life breathing with a determined streak waking us up from our slumber. At once both clunky and lithe, subtly obvious, sloppily precise and beautifully jarring.

These are songs, soundscapes and images which taken individually crawl along inquisitively, but taken collectively buckle us in to the mothership taking us everywhere from Neil's defiant history to the beginnings of time and space to where we find ourselves today.

"All in a dream, all in a dream the loading had begun"...and as always, as our hero introduces himself to us in his "Hippie Dream"...

Take my advice
don't listen to me

At 6/27/2016 03:51:00 PM, Blogger Pocahontas said...

I did wholeheartedly like LAOL with the extended jamming. This will be my go to piece on this album for my commute which is just as long.

It's all one song

At 6/27/2016 11:11:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

I fall firmly in the category of fan that doesn't love Neil's recent extended jamming, but I find the Earth version to be thrilling. It tells a story from beginning to end and it has various threads of unity holding it together while moving it forward.

It's mesmerizing and ends way too soon for my tastes...

Take my advice
don't listen to me

At 6/30/2016 02:21:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Personally, I have no qualm with the long, drawn-out jamming. It usually fits the songs into which Neil incorporates it. I thought Walk like a Giant, from Psychedelic Pill, was the single most complete piece of art Neil had released in a while at that point, especially the last four or five minutes that I know some people don't understand/enjoy. At the time, I said Neil could have released that recording on its own as a piece of art (though I'm glad, of course, that we got the entirety of Psychedelic Pill), and I stand by that. This reincarnation of Love and Only Love fits into the same mold as Walk Like a Giant, and maybe even takes it a step or two further. It's art through sound. For me, the Earth album, as well as Love and only Love in particular, is a multi-sensory experience in as much as the music and sounds have color, texture, even weight--volume in more ways than one--at its best like brushstrokes across the canvas of our ears. And I'm only beginning to get immersed in it.

At 7/07/2016 04:59:00 PM, Blogger stresswitch said...

My review is up at Folk Radio UK blog-


At 7/11/2016 02:34:00 AM, Blogger romat73 said...

I'm really digging this extended "Love & Only Love" jam too. I think the over-dubbed backup singers work well on this song in particular.
Also agree with the comment about "Walk Like Giant", my favorite song from that last Crazy Horse album & tour.

At 5/23/2018 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Just discovered this thread. In response to the poster who criticized the mistakes, let me say I wholeheartedly agree. For the record, the paragraph quoted from my review should read:
Sometimes it soars beyond imagining; who would have guessed that an angelic children’s choir and gentler piano could make “After the Gold Rush” even more beautiful? Young’s wavery, yet beguiling vocals, accompanied mainly by his acoustic strumming and harmonica, give similar beauty to two more vintage tracks: “Human Highway” and “Western Hero.”

Hope that helps!


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