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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Comments of the Moment:"Children of Destiny" by Neil Young + Promise of the Real


"Children of Destiny" - Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Frame from Official Music Video

On this past Friday, Neil Young + Promise of the Real released their new song "Children of Destiny" along with an official music video release.

Our posting here on TW generated quite a few comments. From a comment on "NEW Official Music Video: Neil Young + Promise of the Real - "Children of Destiny"" by Ian:
This is straight from the heart--I can hear that.

Regarding Topanga's comments, I think Neil is sounding rather strong vocally. By which I mean not that he's putting a lot of physical power or "oomph" into the vocals, but that his delivery is assured, clean, and even. I was kinda worried when I read the word "warbling", but to my ears, that's not an entirely accurate description. He just sounds... like Neil. And I take no issue with that. We don't expect Pavarotti, do we? (Although, now I've said that and in view of all Neil's zany experiments of yore, I'm almost surprised he never did collaborate with the Three Tenors!)

The video is good.

I hope it gets some broad publicity. The song itself is immediate. Yes, it arguably comes up against a lot of the issues we've discussed in regard to Neil's recent protest lyrics, and I'll agree it's not his most refined or poetic stuff. But... I feel it. And I give credit for the emotional that Neil, POTR, and Co. touch in this 3:21 confluence of sound. Kinda makes me want to get up and do something (even though 1:00 AM here)--which I would guess is the point. For me, the heart of the song is when Neil asks, "Should goodness ever lose and goodness steal the day/should happy sing the blues and peaceful fade away/what would you do...?" And of course, the key question: "How would you *act* on that blue day?" (Emphasis mine.) From a musical perspective, what makes the song--gives it emotional breadth (and breath)-- is the contrast, the push and pull between the turbo-charged electric guitar thrashing and the soft, melancholy orchestral interludes. This tension is, for me, quite powerful, carrying the listener between emotional heights and depths along with--one imagines-- the singer/composer. Maybe that's what "storytone" means. Ever since 2014, I've been trying to tease out what Neil was getting at with that album title, and I may finally be getting somewhere...

Let's be clear. It doesn't take a genius to rhyme "pain" with "rain". The music itself is the vital element here, the propellant that gives this one liftoff for me. I don't expect everyone to respond in the same way, but I can't deny this one touche something in me. The sound could be described as "Living with War meets Storytone"--sort of a best-of-both-worlds approach. Which works for me, as one of those who thought Storytone had some major moments. Look back at some of my Storytone-period comments, and you'll see why I'm pleased Neil is apparently not ditching that thread of creativity. A few of those songs struck me as quite original and distinguished within Neil's catalogue, and while this one is a little less adventurous lyrically, the sound I'm hearing gives me a measure of hope that those pre-Monsanto Years ideas have not been left altogether behind.

"Children of Destiny" - Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Frame from Official Music Video

Naturally, not all are pleased with Neil's latest efforts.

Some go as far as to suggest that Neil retire. Or record an album of cover songs by great music poet from Canada, Leonard Cohen.

All of which is responded to in a comment on "NEW Official Music Video: Neil Young + Promise of the Real - "Children of Destiny"" by Scotsman:
As for Children Of Destiny: it sounds like yet another stab at the "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" blueprint. But until he finds a way to rediscover more of his songwriting talent then the results are going to be stuck in a low gear, regardless of how many musicians he takes along for the ride, or how worthwhile the message is.

Good songs are both delicate and powerful things. They dreamily whisper in our ear and seduce us (even as the performer is going crazy on-stage), or otherwise they dance provocatively in front us (ditto). That whispering and dancing is where the art is. The best songs often do both simultaneously.

Hithhiker does both. Don't Take Your Love Away From Me does both. So does Ambulance Blues and I'm The Ocean and Interstate and Change Your Mind and Eldorado and Hurricane and Cortez. Songs clearly written by a master.

Alternatively, hammering on the door with "a message" may well be a worthwhile thing to do. But the beauty of music is that it bypasses our rational mind, our conscious self, speaking to us more completely and vividly in a dream-like state. And so too much heavy-handedness and directness in the songwriting destroys the effect, because it wakes us up. And then we switch off. We stop listening. So it's a fine line to walk.

Magical lyrics, a good tune, a sympathetic arrangement and strong performance. That's all you need. But you do need those things.

Good to see he's still out there working on something, anyway.

When you stop playing, you lose.
Thanks Scotsman and Ian for your comments here. And thanks to BigDee1980 for suggesting that Neil record an album of cover songs by great music poet from Canada, Leonard Cohen. We'd definitely check that out. Oh Canada! (Happy Sesquicentennial!)


"Children of Destiny" - Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Frame from Official Music Video

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15 Comments:

At 7/02/2017 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

And just as we finished above post, this comment by TopangaDaze on linked thread that really resonated with us:

Interesting, I like both Peace Trail and Children of Destiny, but neither one of them will go down as essential Neil Young works or as representations of his immense talent.

Both are simple momentary snapshots with Neil writing, singing and playing, because that's what he does. Peace Trail largely got negative reviews in the media and here as well if my memory serves. Now, people here are treating it as a minor masterpiece in comparison to Children of Destiny.

I really don't understand why people think the new song is so terrible. I suppose it's in comparison to Neil's classic oeuvre, and that's unfair. To me, it's just a completely different entity, though it's a continuation of a style we've seen partially used on works like Living With War and Storytone.

Children of Destiny isn't a rock song, or a pop song, or an orchestral movement. It's a campfire, nursery rhyme protest sing-along song. It works for me extremely well in that context. It's not beneath Neil Young nor uncharacteristic of Neil Young, though David Geffen may argue...

Perhaps I'm over-thinking or under-thinking it, but there's nothing embarrassing about the song. Yes, it's simple both musically and lyrically, but I find my toes tapping and find myself thinking about my country and the future when I listen to it.

Mission accomplished Neil! And by the way, the video has been trending on You Tube with around 350K views (3,100 likes 1,200 dislikes).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RKBUG9VLFU

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

 
At 7/02/2017 09:07:00 PM, Blogger medward said...

Hitchhiker was pulled for this shit? God damnit Neil

 
At 7/03/2017 12:09:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

I should reiterate we don't know for sure about Hitchhiker or what comes next. Just like Fork in the Road didn't hold up Archives I for too long, I hope Hitchhiker is still in the pipeline. Also like Fork in the Road, this new offering is stimulating a bit of controversy. This spirt of activity is starting to remind me of the old days... I first checked in here around 2008/2009, so for me, those are the early Thrasher days. Hard to believe it's been almost a decade since I found this community. 11 years since Living with War, a turning point in my the development of my Neil Consciousness. You know that Time Fades Away. May the wheat continue to be bountiful. I want to keep searching for the place where the human highway becomes the peace trail.

 
At 7/03/2017 06:12:00 AM, Blogger Keith Burris said...

I really like Topanga an Ian's comments.

You can't grade an artist.

We have to be interested in everything he has to say.

As for Neil Young, his resilience and courage make me say "God bless."

 
At 7/03/2017 02:47:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

I would say one can always choose to be interested (or not) in anything the artist has to say....

 
At 7/03/2017 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Hounds That Howl said...

I believe Neil is saying look, you can be part of the solution, saving Mother Earth, or part of the problem celebrating Nationalism to the exclusion of addressing the problems facing Humanity. The Nationalism is represented in the hokey Patriotic Videos and video of our arch enemy the Kremlin. The Children of Destny are being brainwashed by the fourth of July celebrations to honor nationalism and being blinded to their other responsibility as children of Mother Earth.

 
At 7/03/2017 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Hoping said...

Can we get an official post in regards to the latest status of Hitchhiker?

 
At 7/03/2017 05:29:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Resilience & Courage ??? please explain? It doesn't take courage to write s song from his pedestal that we put him on. It's a pity Neil didn't spend as much time as we have on this dreadful song. It's only controversial because it's so bloody limp. In the video when the song slows down Neil is talking like some prophet it's awful. Mr Funz got it right in his earlier post.

 
At 7/03/2017 06:10:00 PM, Blogger RSW said...

To me, Neil is completely detached from reality. Or he's lost his mind a bit. He is delusional if he thinks that a song like this will have any practical, real-world impact on anybody or anything. For a song like this to have any effect, the lyrics need to be either interesting or poignant or powerful or creative or mysterious. Reciting a bunch of cliched, empty nonsense lines accomplishes nothing and, as I said previously, only serves to diminish the man and his legacy. This is utterly embarrassing. To be clear, it is beyond bad or boring or annoying. It is embarrassing.

 
At 7/03/2017 06:54:00 PM, Blogger joe lookout said...

"I've been wrong before
And I'll be there again
I don't have
any answers my friend
Just this pile of old questions
My memory left me here
In the field of opportunity
It's plowin' time again."

This is what Neil was singing in 1978...

He is still looking for answers, like most of us. Children of destiny is just another step toward that goal where even Donald Trump has got soul.
Here in Rome is already 4th of July....So happy 4th of July to all american NY fans, in primis to Thrasherswheat!!!!

 
At 7/03/2017 07:47:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I like the sentiment and ideology revealed in this new song. It inpires me. Some of you are pretty harsh critics of your favorite (?) musician. I am thrilled he is still doing it. I think Neil has gotten more focused and sharper in his latter years. I am not saying he has become a better singer, guitarist, etc. I hope there will be a whole album with it!

 
At 7/03/2017 08:54:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

On the eve of July 4 it is good to remember my Dad's favorite quote:

"The great thing about America is you can disagree and still be friends.."

 
At 7/04/2017 09:01:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

The tune is nice enough (though more than a little reminiscent of "God Save The Queen" on Americana), and I like the transition between the brash chorus and gentler verses. But there just isn't much substance to the song, beyond the now-standard rhetoric. Style over content. Note that I'm onboard with looking after the planet an all that, very much so. So I'm not criticising the message.

But songs are "supposed" to be nutrious food for our souls, bringing us something profound or enriching, something to stretch our hearts and minds. They shouldn't be compareable to over-salted junk food. That's why we seek out great songwriters and performers: they bring us something extraordinary and wondrous, something fulfilling. Something inspiring. Songs like Days That Used To Be and Violent Side and Stringman and Bandit.

So if the message behind this song is so "from the heart" (and I believe it is), then how hard can it be to sit down with pen and paper and come up with something a little more substantial? This is the same guy who has habitually written great songs for 50+ years. So he knows how to do it. He's got the skill, and that doesn't die with age. It just gets bured a little, if the muscle isn't stretched, if you take the easy route too many times.

It reminds me a little of Elvis's later live shows, where Elvis would cover up the weaknesses in his voice with orchestras and backing singers. His band gradually grew bigger and bigger, more and more musicians, and all the while his own strength and power were being ever more diminished. As the band grew bigger, Elvis got smaller. In contrast, Neil is clearly still a very able singer. I loved his intimate voice on Peace Trail and it sounds fine here, as well. But it's hard to deny that the shiny vaneer of the orchestra and production is hiding the fact that the song doesn't have a great deal of substance, doesn't have much to offer the listener.

You can throw more and more money at the project (incidentally, I wonder what budget Everybody Knows or Zuma were made on?), add more guitar players, more sound effects, more orchestras. But ultimately the overall success of the project will come from your dedicated ability to lock yourself in a room for two months (Sleeps With Angels-style), without consistent distraction, and come out (sweat dripping from your brow) with a notebook full of great songs that are worthy of people's attention. Songs that will blow us away with their insight or feeling or wit or humour or impact or...etc. And if you can't offer any of those things, then what are you doing writing songs?!?

I'll tell you one thing: Neil Young can do all of that. With ease. When he sits down and works hard.

Everything else is superfluous, and will be ignored by everyone (except those of us who listen to and buy everything out of faith).

Scotsman.

 
At 7/04/2017 02:32:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@Andy Walters and RSW: I guess I see the song as more of a primal roar from Neil than anything else. It takes the form of a call to action, but at the end of the day, it's about how he's feeling and his need to hammer it out.

I doubt he's literally expecting the song to change the world or influence many people. "Just singing a song won't change the world"... right? But if it helps to motivate even a relatively small number of people, get them thinking and feeling about what they're doing or planning to do, that's value in that. Hell, if it makes some people feel a little better during difficult, overwhelming times, that's an accomplishment. It's really a reminder of an indomitable, resilient spirit that underlies the better side of humanity and, hopefully, is a reserve each of us can, in some small way, plug in to.

 
At 7/04/2017 02:51:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Also, I don't relate to the "embarrassing" line. Slightly presumptuous to be embarrassed on behalf of someone else--especially someone you don't really know, can't see, and hasn't done anything except put a song out for the world. Rest assured, Neil's legacy of the last half century will remain relatively unaffected by whatever he's doing now. Besides, it's up to him to shape what he wants his legacy to be. It's ultimately more important for him, and those closest to him, to be at peace with this than it is for us to hail every moment of it from the rooftops.


For the artist, you send out to the universe what you want to send out--when and how you wish to send it--and the rest is out of your hands.

 

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