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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Next Studio Album?

Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Capitol Studios, ~June 2017

As the dog days of summer fly past -- and many continue to lose grasp -- we see Neil Young fans a bit restless out there in the fields of wheat. So much chaff...

So, on to the TW Comment of the Moment on Neil Young's latest studio recording (which we covered earlier this summer) by Scotsman:
I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to hearing what Neil Young has come up with on his new album. I'm not talking about Hitchhiker (we all know that will be good), but his TBC [ed. - TBD?] 2017 studio album.

I heard Children Of Destiny when it came out, and to tell the truth, I wasn't really blown away by it. The lyrics were generally a bit flat, and I wasn't impressed by the way Neil as a musician was reduced in stature. Live on stage, we'd seen his once-dominant guitar playing become little more than a side show in the saturated noodle-fest of "Lukas Nelson and the All-Insect Orchestra" (quite literally so, on Earth). On Children Of Destiny, Neil Young as Musical Director was as present as ever. But his musical presence as a performer was becoming even more reduced. My opinion? Use it or lose it.

But despite this, the spark of inspiration was clearly there. I liked the musical arrangement, and the juxtaposition between the "shoot first/ask questions later" orchestra and the far-off war-torn streets was sublime.

Overall the song struck me as being a sort of re-imagining of Rockin' In The Free World (combined with the environmentalism of Whose Gonna Stand Up?). There's that familiar combination of anthemic, flag-waving chorus with more solemn and grimly down-to-earth verses. A pairing that offers more questions than answers, in the timeless tradition.

So as usual with his recent projects, there's the sense of him being onto something; you can see what he's up to, but he doesn't take it far enough, dig deep enough to break through to the really rich stuff, the magical verse that was waiting to be written 5 minutes after he stopped writing.

The positive side of this is huge, of course. He's still got it. All the key elements are in place. He's still got that instinctive blend of artistry, stage direction, ambiguity, craftiness, storytelling, passion. In spades; we saw it on Earth, as well. He just needs a few more great songs to go with it. And if he does dig that little big deeper, does go that extra mile, then we are going to experience another classic. Will it be this next one? I don't know. But I'm really excited about finding out. I wouldn't bet against it.

Lastly, I want to make clear that I think it is great that he's drawing attention to some of the major problems facing our world today, when much of America (and indeed, much of the world) is looking the other way. At the age of nearly 72, Neil Young is still creating and (perhaps more remarkably) still learning.

Long may it continue.

Thanks -- as always - Scotsman!

For more on Neil Young + Promise of the Real's new song "Children of Destiny", see:

Labels: ,


At 8/24/2017 02:41:00 PM, Blogger SJ said...

There's no evidence that a new album was recorded other than Neil's confusing post. POTR is busy with there own stuff. Is there one last ride left for Crazy Horse? Hope so

At 8/24/2017 03:09:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Neil has been talking about the new POTR studio album all along, he said in the March Mojo magazine that it was halfway finished.

At 8/24/2017 03:12:00 PM, Blogger SJ said...


At 8/24/2017 04:08:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks SJ & Babbo.

So is it possible that Children Of Destiny could end up on a POTR release?

Or are we just too far gone???

At 8/24/2017 04:11:00 PM, Blogger Seamus Mc Donnell said...

I like like Earth to a point. The songs are great though i felt the natural sounds were poorly weaved and forced into the music. Fairly missed an oppertunity.

At 8/24/2017 05:47:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

I'm kinda figuring, or is it hoping, that' he has one album in the can from early in the year plus a newly just completed album with POTR and that Children Of Destiny will remain as a stand alone single.

At 8/25/2017 03:31:00 AM, Blogger kahunasunset said...

Hope Children Of Destiny stays as a stand alone "single" and doesn't appear in any form on any NY album. Never want to hear it again.

At 8/25/2017 07:42:00 AM, Blogger Julie said...

I am hoping for one last ride with the Horse. POTR add nothing of real value to Neil IMHO

At 8/25/2017 11:11:00 AM, Blogger TOM said...

I am truly grateful Neil disagrees with Juie

At 8/25/2017 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real have a new album out today 8/25/17 with two songs with Lady Gaga.They have added a piano Player and a pedal steel Player to the band.I wonder what setlist we will get at farm aid in a few weeks.If you dont like potr with Neil i suggest you skip the Earth album and listen to the '15 USA your compilation that Ron,Tom and myself put together and Ron & Toms '16 Europe tour compilation.Their is some great jams the last couple years.Counting the days to my 3rd farm aid concert!!!

At 8/25/2017 12:40:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

So, did Neil just finish recording an album (with or without POTR) or didn't he? I actually was somewhat alarmed at what Neil had written, as at best, it was confusing, and at worst...

Summing up a few of my disparate thoughts as to what's happened recently, where we are today and where we're heading:

*"Earth" was at best a mediocre album. The tour it represented was great, but Neil generally missed the mark with his "childish studio tinkering" and overdubbing. He completely ruined what should have been the best song "Hippie Dream" and it's barely listenable. I applaud and understand what he was trying to do, but it's a somewhat clunky and stilted work overall. Not terrible, but far from great...

**"Children of Destiny" in my opinion is a good to very good song. I'm in the minority. but I feel the lyrics are decent to good, the melody is catchy and the performance is also quite good. I don't understand what people hate about it. Perhaps it's not considered edgy or typical of Neil's best work, but that doesn't bother me at all. Neil's always changing, and again, I just feel the song's catchy, and I liked the timeliness and immediacy of it...

***The best album Neil has released in a while is his last one "Peace Trail" (which I think exactly 78 people have actually heard). The title song stands up quite well in comparison to Neil's last "golden era" of the early 90s (actually late 80s through early 2000s). Most of the album finds Neil's songwriting a little more polished, and his voice and vocal styling sounds better and more natural than it has in years. Add to that his casually affective guitar strumming and tight backing rhythm and drumming sections, and it all adds up to an interesting mood piece, echoing and combining elements found in "On the Beach" and "Greendale"...

****I remain mildly concerned over Neil's physical and mental health primarily due to his "hiatus" but also due to some of his recent little "notes" he's shared with us. Primary among my concerns is his most recent note, which seems to imply he's just finished a new album, but then again, maybe he hasn't. It's a little disconcerting.

*****I'm still thrilled over his last several years of touring, beginning in 2014 with his solo acoustic tour, followed by his tour(s) with POTR. Despite what many here say, I feel that the POTR deserve a lot of credit for energizing Neil and challenging him. Their collaborations with him in concert have been very special, and to me, much more exciting and interesting than his most recent tours with Crazy Horse.

In my opinion, Neil looks at and treats his music with CH differently these days. What was once magical and mystical has morphed into nothing more than sheets of discordant noise (to my ears) driven by Neil. The Horse can still play quite well, but Neil seems to prefer going for the noise, melody and fluidity (and music) be damned!

So, what's coming? I predict a new album with POTR in 2018 and another tour with them (hopefully). I don't think we'll see another tour with Crazy Horse, but I think we'll see another recording with them. I also think we'll see one final collaboration with CSNY in some capacity, but I don't have any desire for it. Selfishly, I just want Neil to continue to grow with POTR and see where he takes them and where they take him, but primarily I just want Neil to be happy and healthy and active.

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 8/25/2017 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Neil's Facebook post (two weeks ago today) was quite clear. He was sharing the video Lukas had posted about the new POTR band album (without Neil), which Lukas labeled "PLEASE SHARE." In Neil's comment accompanying his share, he said that 1) They had finished the new Neil and POTR album the day before; 2) while they were listening to that all the way through for the first time, Lukas was on the studio floor signing advance vinyl copies of the POTR-alone album (which was released today); 3) they also had been listening to the POTR-alone album recently on their bus, and it sounded great. No cause for concern whatsoever.

At 8/25/2017 04:17:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Thanks Babbo B. I'll admit I've only been paying cursory attention these days, so I guess I didn't put the pieces together properly.

Hopefully we'll here a few details about the new album soon...

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

PS: Rolling Stone had a nice little review of Hitchhiker. They gave it 4.5 stars...

At 8/25/2017 05:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Topanga: compare the edited version of Hippie Dream from Earth with the youtube video of the live take it was adapted from. The released version does feature extensive vocal and keyboard overdubs, but the sections I'm guessing you hear as "barely listenable" (the dissonant/berserk guitar playing and cacophonous backing) is exactly the same on the raw live take. So if anything was barely listenable on Hippie Dream, it was already that way before Neil started his overdubbing! Though personally I liked it (just my opinion - I understand the disagreement), I thought it was one of the better performances from 2015.

My feeling is that Neil generally lived up to his claim of picking the best live takes from 2015, or more specifically, the songs most suited to the strengths of his backing band. And I do like most of the overdubs, I feel they add much needed dynamics and a sense of space to a tour that was often deficient in those very qualities. In other words, Earth flatters the live recordings, rather than shames them.

Full review below for anyone interested:


At 8/25/2017 06:50:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Lukas apparently said in a Facebook Q&A today that they'll be touring with Neil next year to promote the new album.

At 8/25/2017 08:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/25/2017 10:28:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Hey Scots, I hear you. I re-listened to both versions and I still much prefer the straight live version, but the "Earth" version didn't sound quite as bad as I'd remembered it, so I guess that's a victory for the heart!

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 8/26/2017 12:44:00 AM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

@Patrick: Boy, are you totally dense? Read the actual lines:

Mojo magazine, March 2017: "(Young) is halfway through a new studio album with Promise of the Real, the young tyros led by Willie Nelson's son Lukas ..."

Neil Young Facebook post, Aug. 11, 2017: "Yesterday, when we finished our new album, we were playing it back for the first time. Lukas was on the floor of the studio ..."

At 8/26/2017 12:54:00 AM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Oh, and almost forgot: Lukas Nelson, Facebook Live Q&A, Aug. 25, 2017: "We're going to go on tour with Neil next year. We just completed a new record with Neil, actually."

At 8/26/2017 01:43:00 AM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Personally, I absolutely loved "Peace Trail". I listened to it again last week and it still impresses. The sparse, simple sound fits Neil as an older man to a tee. To me, he's at an age and point in life where, at least studio-wise, the "less is more" theory works very well.

On a live stage, the power and energy of POTR brings Neil to a truly elevated performance. And that has been a wonder to behold these last few years. In the studio, however, it feels so cluttered. Then you had an orchestra to it? I don't know, that's a lot to take in. I've always felt Neil's best studio work occurs when there's as few people as possible. "Peace Trail" was perfect in that regard. Nothing recorded with POTR has come close to that, at least not yet.

At 8/26/2017 03:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard: I think Promise Of The Real as a live backing band was much better in 2016 than 2015. They were more "reigned in", giving Neil much more room to play lead guitar, which he did to great effect. I still think the guitar tones of the three guitarists don't gel particularly well together (the sound mix comes to life when one of them stops playing) but there is no doubt they have improved.

The 2015 recordings needed some overdubs and studio tinkering to add some variation to an overly saturated mix ("cluttered", as Richard succinctly put it). Whereas I suspect the 2016 recordings would sound much more usable in their original state.

In fairness, it's hard for 3-guitar POTR to truly win on the electric songs. It's a challenge. If they do there own thing with abandon, the mix becomes saturated and drives out that spacey Neil Young magic where the spook lives. If they play with more restraint, they start to sound like Crazy Horse. Nothing wrong with that, but in that case, why not just use the original? So I think this is a band that would benefit from less members (or at least, less guitarists), not more. And that applies more on-stage than it does on record.

For me, When You Dance was one of the more exciting electric songs from last year, not least because Micah moved across to the keys, opening up the mix and giving Neil the space to really play lead guitar. It was David Briggs who in 1994 said something like "similar to the law of physics, no two sounds can occupy the same space at the same time".



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