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Thursday, November 23, 2017

NPR's First Listen: Neil Young & Promise Of The Real, 'The Visitor'

First Listen: Neil Young & Promise Of The Real, 'The Visitor'

Rage takes many forms in these new songs — laments, exhortations and diatribes about the rapidly changed world in the aftermath of the last U.S. presidential election.

From NPR's First Listen by Tom Moon:
Rage takes many forms in the new songs of Neil Young. If, by chance, you don't connect with the relatively even-tempered opening track "Already Great," which celebrates the United States as "the promised land" and "the helping hand," perhaps something in the key of caustic sarcasm suits you better? That would be track two, and the bone-rattling, inspired-by-Funkadelic groove "Fly By Night Deal." On it, Young alternates between the role of a pipeline project manager barking orders like "Move those animals out of here" and an outraged citizen who screams "No more" and laments "no one sees what's getting lost."

Sometimes the 72-year-old Young is tender and philosophical about the developments that anger him. Consider "Almost Always." One minute he's musing allegorically about birds; the next he's castigating the sitting U.S. president as a "game show host who has to brag and has to boast about tearing down the things that I hold dear."

Sometimes Young lets the music do the snarling: Though "When Bad Got Good" has a refrain borrowed straight from Donald Trump's 2016 campaign – "Lock him up!" – Young doesn't lean too heavily on it. He often mutters the chant under his breath, like a wily old sage, while he and the musicians of Promise of the Real work out the fine points of a swamp-rock groove that distills rage into delicious high-octane sonic abrasion.

And sometimes, particularly on the pasted-together production number "Children Of Destiny," Young disguises his rage behind the bright sing-song cadences of animated Disney films.

Should goodness ever lose
And evil steal the day
Should happy sing the blues
And peaceful fade away
What would you do, what would you say?

The music surrounding that couplet is pure power-ballad treacle, like the hits from Frozen – only even fluffier (if that's possible). It's followed by a comically grandiose fanfare played by a 56-piece orchestra, and that's followed by a large mixed chorus singing flag-waving phrases like "Stand up for what you believe." Those who thrilled to Young's 2003 rock opera Greendale will find much to love here.

"Children Of Destiny" is the only overwrought and over-thought moment on The Visitor, Young's 39th studio album — the album he's using to launch his exhaustive online archive. The remaining nine tracks offer laments, fervent exhortations and heated diatribes about the rapidly changed world in the aftermath of the last U.S. presidential election. Young has always been quick to indignation, but on The Visitor he is careful to vary his tone, if not the target of his ire. (The quietly competent, and open-minded, musicians of Promise of the Real, now in their third collaboration with Young, help greatly with this.)

Viewed one way, the album amounts to a diverse compendium of tactics an artist might employ to express complex emotions (disbelief, fear, betrayal) upon discovering, as Young puts it on "Stand Tall," that one's way of life has been "turned upside down." In the months since the election, pop culture pundits have talked about the response to Trump from the arts, usually in the form of general questions like "Where are the protest songs?" Neil Young weaves the rhetoric of protest into the stanzas of The Visitor — "Already Great" ends with the galvanizing chant "Whose streets? Our streets!" — and a few songs about man's stewardship of nature certainly meet the basic definition of protest music.

But the work as a whole addresses itself more broadly, to the rifts and resentments and underlying conditions that gave rise to this president; its tense dissonances and vitriolic refrains reflect the sordid freak-show surreality of this moment in history. It's not any kind of definitive statement on the age of Trump — more like a quick scan across a ravaged landscape, made by someone with a shaky hand who can't quite believe what he sees.

‘The Visitor’
by Neil Young + Promise of the Real

Neil Young + Promise of the Real new album "The Visitor" is to be released on December 1. Pre-order here

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At 11/24/2017 02:52:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Carnival is a tremendous song which has swept me away, to be honest. A colorful, surreal window into the mind of our shape shifter hero. Neil can play Spanish style guitar, and, much to my amazement, he can write a song such as this, which really fits into no category, except it's cinematic (like Johnathan Demme said of Neil's songs). The album is worth it for this one song. But there are other good songs on this album.

At 11/24/2017 06:08:00 AM, Blogger joe lookout said...

Would love to hear Poncho singing: Lock him up!!!!!!!! (more polite than Fu£$%ng up.....)

the more I listen to the 'Visitor' the more I love it.
Good ole Neil still surprises me
I consider the album kinda trip thru his music from Buffalo Springfield to Peace Trail via Harvest Moon and Greendale (touching notes a la Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and BB King)

and thru his private life from Susan to Daryl via Pegi

and POTR is a great band despite their youth!!!!

looking forward to seeing them Live

have a nice we


At 11/24/2017 07:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'll wait until the record is released next week before listening." - Me.

Well, that resolution lasted about 2 minutes. Ha! And of course, first impressions can be misleading, especially with challenging or deep songs. There's more to the picture than meets the eye. It's important to be aware of that.

I'd been looking forward to this record for some time. The two sample tracks (Children Of Destiny and Already Great) didn't exactly blow me away, but the flash of inspiration was there. It just needed to be mined a little deeper. Both felt a little sparse, but were performed well and featured well-arranged backing from POTR. But of course, these songs are just isolated pieces of the jigsaw. They tell us as much about The Visitor as say, Mother Earth does about Ragged Glory.

And just like Peace Trail (an album it shares much in common with), this record is high on fun sounds and vivid colours. That's the first thing I noticed, in both the music and the lyrics. Lyrics which, incidentally, once again see Neil employing the approach I championed months ago: write at greater length, see what happens, see where it takes you. Some verses fly, some fall, and in between flashes of magic happen. Observations and feelings begin to emerge and then take form, to be developed. Which is the whole point; for an artist who has on recent albums so clearly struggled to get into that flow of lyric writing.

And this record isn't always the easiest of listens: the most accessible thing here is Children Of Destiny. The road goes on, getting more rocky with every passing milestone. Despite the colorful and delicate song arrangements, this one is as inaccessible as they get. Choruses are sparse, verses are long, arrangements sprawl around like overhanging trees. This is not a vista to be wowed by; more a jungle that needs to be grappled with to be fully enjoyed.

(End of part 1).

At 11/24/2017 07:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Part 2 of 2)

Other observations? This music has a great spaghetti-western feel to it: in the lyrics, the theatrical vocal delivery, the sparse and spooky musical backing. The rib-tickling creepiness of Carnival. It all combines to give the album a coherent musical theme; except perhaps Children Of Destiny, which itself feels like a Visitor from another album. Promise Of The Real sound fine throughout, playing to their strengths rather than trying too hard to be something they are not. The end result is an engaging musical soundscape where Neil Young generally succeeds in rising to the surface.

I love the sound of Neil's electric guitar, (as always), but I sometimes found myself wishing it had more presence. On Stand Tall, Neil's octave-divided guitar sounds so sublime that it begs to be cranked up in the mix, Eldorado-style; just like his distorto-harmonica did so effectively on Peace Trail. Though perhaps that is something destined for the next Crazy Horse record (and of course, there will always be a next Crazy Horse record).

Will this go down as Neil's "best album in 20 years" (Lukas Nelson)? Only if you completely ignore Greendale and Psychedelic Pill, would be my guess at this point in time. But this new one is certainly one to pay some attention to, to award some of your time. Despite the laid-back arrangements I do feel a sense of urgency on this record, which is always a good thing where Neil is involved: because he tends to rise to the occasion and cram a bit more substance in.

Of course, there will be some suggestion that this is Neil's "last" original album. In the same way that Dylan's ominously-titled "Tempest" raised a few eyebrows. Both artists realise they are likely to be closer to the end than the beginning. But to make an end is to make a beginning, and perhaps the most striking thing about The Visitor is that it sees Neil Young continuing to try something new, to plough new ground.

I've already enjoyed and been surprised by this album; as a complete piece it hasn't blown me away on first listen (no cause for concern; not all albums are intended to do that), and I'm looking forward to hearing it again and seeing what else I discover.


At 11/24/2017 07:17:00 AM, Blogger SHIELDagent said...

Well, this isn't as bad as feared after hearing children of destiny. It's still not particularly good but it's no storytone, and it's better than peace trail too.

One thing that bugged me though - Almost Always is a shameless rip-off of From Hank to Hendrix.

At 11/24/2017 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Sounds an improvement, but are we really settling for this ?

At 11/24/2017 12:32:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

This is a very good and cohesive album. Granted, I've still only listened sporadically and have locked on to a few songs for repeated playback, but overall, I think it's a truly engaging and unique work.

Most importantly to me, the songwriting throughout is a major improvement from Neil's recent lesser works. "Change of Heart" "Carnival" and "Forever" have moments of beauty and grace and mad brilliance reminiscent of Neil's great writing. "Almost Always" is also a beautiful song, and personally, I like that it mirrors "Unknown Legend" and "From Hank to Hendrix" from Harvest Moon.

So, as I hear it, there are definitely four songs here (Almost Always, Change of Heart, Carnival and Forever) that can stand alongside much of Neil's best work over the decades. Four very good to great songs!

But, it really doesn't stop there. My least favorite song here is the previously heard opening track "Already Great". Though initially I hated it and I still don't love it, it's grown on me slightly over time. The music has a certain casual charm to it, and some of the lyrics and repeated political protest chants drive Neil's point home.

"Fly By Night Deal" is next with varying degrees of success, but overall the song is interesting with Neil basically rapping in cinematic Greendale style over the concerns between big business and ecology. Not my favorite tune, but it's fairly affective and succinct, so it fits in reasonably well.


At 11/24/2017 12:33:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...


Then the previously mentioned "Almost Always" spins, and we're reminded of the beauty in much of Neil's music. It's soothing and harkens back to familiar Neil themes quite successfully.

"Stand Tall" is up next and while it could easily be dismissed as another overly political and forced song reminiscent of some of his weaker songs from the Monsanto Years, here there's a little more nuance and musicality. The lyrics are better and there's a nice rhythmic melody that kicks in. It's a solid enough song...

Then comes the powerful one-two punch of "Change of Heart" and "Carnival" and things really start to take off. Lyrically and musically these are good songs, and as mentioned previously, "Carnival" is really incredibly unique. It's cinematic in style and the lyrics are surrealistic and magical. Neil's spoken/sung/acted vocal delivery is captivating as is the carnival-esque music and chorus/backing vocals and ominous laughter. It's an amazing overall piece of music!

I woke up this morning with the chants of carnival...carnival...carnival, ringing around my brain and I couldn't wait to listen to it again. Neil is at his best maniacal quirky brilliance here, and I haven't liked a new Neil song this much in a long time. I definitely find myself smiling and bobbing along throughout the 8+ minutes!

"Diggin' a Hole" is next and it's a slight blues tune that pleasantly comes and goes quickly enough. In some ways it reminds me of "Vampire Blues" and it serves its purpose as a quick bridge...

The previously heard "Children of Destiny" follows, and I've always liked it. I'm in the minority, but I think it's decent lyrically and the melody is catchy.

"When Bad Got Good" is another slight and thankfully quick song, but again, it has some of that unique Neil charm to it.

The closing song "Forever" is a 10+ minute acoustic meditative reflection, reminiscent to me in parts to "Ambulance Blues" from On the Beach. It has moments of transcendence to my ears, and the 10 minutes just fly by. Neil is saying hello and goodbye to us, and it's a gift for the ages.

Overall, this is a very rewarding album to my ears, and I suspect that over time it will only grow in meaning and enjoyment to me. It's a solid engaging cohesive work, touching well on familiar themes of the political, the ecological and the personal. On this album, Neil walks and straddles the lines quite successfully.

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 11/24/2017 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Cheapfeet said...

"Almost Always" has a similar chord progressions as "Hank-Hendrix" but it also has the exact three-note riff from "Unknown Legend" so it's possibly a "Harvest Moon" tribute tune.

"Carnival" sounds like cheesy Santana but it works. Fun, goofy, the elephant in the tent verse is worth the ride.
"Forever" is beautiful but I wish Neil adjusted keys in his 70s.
The two throw-away segue tunes are just that but Neil knew enough to make them brief.
"Fly By Night Deal" & "Stand Tall" are almost more awful protest tunes but they kinda Rock and work. "Fly" has a particularly funky riff. They're musical, they touch you with their musicality more than their message.
"Children of Destiny" is still the most soulless song written by a soulful person.
"Change of Heart" is nice, beautiful chorus.

Some of these tunes woulda worked on "Silver and Gold"
It is similar to PEACE TRAIL which I liked.
This album kinda proves where his strengths are: the political stuff is just not very strong but creative Neil is still a giant.

At 11/24/2017 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Beautiful Transcendent Iridescence. Reminds me of his First LP. The Inside & Outside of His Head. Multiple Media Letter Exploding Before My Minds Eye, the One Right in the Middle of My Forehead. Thanks for the Lifelong Friendship. Ken Viola

At 11/24/2017 03:44:00 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

Still not to sure where I stand on The Visitor - looking forward to a high quality stream on Tidal in a week (and then the vinyl early Jan) - but I can report that the new vinyl pressing of Harvest Moon sounds amazing.
What a perfect run Neil had in the first half of the 90s: ragged glory, harvest moon, unplugged, sleeps with angels, dead man

At 11/24/2017 04:49:00 PM, Blogger Shakey said...

Am I the only one that hears Unknown Legend when I listen to Almost Always. Definitely more so than From Hank to Hendrix

At 11/24/2017 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Visitor" is eclectic, surprising (not like the last one and not what anyone expected; Geffen would sue again), obscure, messy, simple, angry, funny as hell, touching, and beautiful -- a classic Neil Young album. Like "Harvest," "Freedom," or "Ragged Glory."

So much for "the master's best days are behind him."

No one does what he does.

Please, God, a tour.

At 11/24/2017 06:39:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Hey Keith, "obscure, messy, simple, angry, funny as hell, touching, and beautiful" are all apt descriptors. Well said!

This new album is definitely vintage Neil, I'm just not sure exactly what vintage it is, or if it's a new vintage. Likely it's a combination of all vintages, including most prominently the present tense.

As I'm writing this, the stream is up to "Almost Always" in the background, and it sounds great...

"And I'm living with a game show host
who has to brag and has to boast
'bout tearing down the things that I hold dear"

Sums up my feelings pretty well...

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 11/24/2017 06:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/24/2017 08:29:00 PM, Blogger The Young Oslo Neil said...

I am happy. I am very pleased with stuff I never heard before. Like Neil going theatrical in presentations. (Carnival)
And all those details in sounds. PoTR seems to allow themselves to sort out funny arrangement that is not only about making a Neil album, but to make the Visitor something to itself. Interesting on Almost Always, because Neil is (almost always) strumming the rhythm on his Martin something between straight and shuffle. Drummers pick it up straight, but on this song the band goes for a shuffle feel. (This is G Hm C A7- From Hank to Hendrix is G Hm C Am. Not far away, but far enough. The riff on Fly by Night deal is almost, in a funny way, same as Heart of Gold ) I think Stand Tall and Already great is good songs to cover. Yes, half a minute more guitar solo would easily "stand tall".

At 11/24/2017 08:42:00 PM, Blogger Richard, Glasgow. UK said...

So here goes! It's snowy and freezing here in the Scottish hills. It's Friday night. I've downed a bottle of Minervois and relaxed by the fire while watching a soccer match on TV which highlighted the continued decline of my team - Glasgow Rangers. Since then my Dear Wife and I have listened, repeatedly, to The Visitor and now I'm happy!

For context, I first got into Mr Young in 1970 and he has been, by far, my main man ever since. I have not only purchased every goddam recording I can, i have also travelled across the UK, Europe and the USA taking in as many shows as work and finance permitted. Frankly, much of the material released in recent years has left me cold - stone cold - and that has been a disappointment. I didn't much take to the two preview tracks from The Visitor but they make sense in the context of the whole album - and for me The Visitor is the most thrilling, absorbing, brilliant work Neil Young has released in ages. I love it. I'm not going to start analysing each track and every musical or lyrical reference, I don't need to. I understand references to previous songs where some melodies have re-appeared - it only adds to the whole approach. The overall theme and structure is superb.

I like to think i am concerned about my fellow man and our environment. I can't stand the narrow minded, self serving, greed and bigotry of big business, Trump and Brexit. Mr Young has tried several times to address some of these issues. This time he has nailed it. The Visitor needs to be listened to in it's entirety with an enquiring mind and a kind heart. I suggest we all buy an extra copy of the album and gift it to a friend for Christmas.

Richard, Glasgow, UK.

At 11/24/2017 09:57:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Carnival is definitely the stand out track here. Musically, it's like nothing Neil has done in the past, and it ends up working quite well. It's a real testimony to his creative abilities that even after 50+ years he can pull something utterly new out of the hat. Lyrically, it's very oblique and actually has a feel similar to Last Trip to Tulsa in that sense.

As has been noted already, the originality of Carnival is contrasted with Almost Always's direct referencing of Unknown Legend and From Hank to Hendrix. With Harvest Moon being released today on vinyl, I wonder if that's just a coincidence. As derivative as it is, it is a pleasant song.

A few tracks are ones that could have easily been left on the cutting floor: Diggin' A Hole, When Bad Got Good and Forever. Diggin' is just a toss away that never really gets in the groove. The "Lock him up!" refrain in WBGG represents the worst impulses of the resistance to the Trump administration. Surely we can fight against all the autocratic efforts of the current resident of the White House without resorting to his own anti-democratic tactics of threatening jail time for opponents. Finally, Neil's vocal on Foreover is just to painful to listen to -- I can't even focus on what he's singing.

Overall, Neil shows he can still produce some great music, but we have to take the bad with the good.

At 11/25/2017 01:28:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

I have only heard the whole album a few times so I will wait to comment.

At 11/25/2017 01:29:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/25/2017 01:39:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/25/2017 01:49:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Brilliant review! I started seeing him in 1988. 20 shows later, here I am. I am so happy to read your review. Personally I have loved nearly everything he has ever put out. I love his current band and look forward to seeing them again! I hope to see you there.I will be up on the rail. Neil does what he wants... Thank God! Alan in Seattle

At 11/25/2017 02:02:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Wonderful thoughts from everyone. @lookout joe, Could it be that one reason POTR is a good band is *because* of their youth? An injection of fresh blood may really be pushing Neil along here!

@Andy--Neil doesn't settle (for long) and nor do we. This is one more stop on the road, imho. It's about the impact for *this* moment, not posterity. I guess I'm curious as to what you would expecting of NY, but personally, I hope that I am as fresh and vital at 72 as much of The Visitor sounds. As Neil suggests on "Forever", the rest is building boxes to think in what we we will.

Myself, still certainly processing the songs and sounds. I must be one of the few who doesn't mind Neil's "Forever" high notes. If not for one or two comments here, I doubt I would have thought anything of it. I honestly had a harder time with the choruses of "New Day for Love" back in the Monsanto Years.

Carnival and Almost Always may be the favorites so far, but there is lots to unpack here. "Almost Always" does have the Harvest Moon-period reference, but I also hear pieces of the first part of "My New Robot" in the melody. And let's not forget that back in '92, on You and Me, Neil ("shamelessly") quoted from Old Man, musically and lyrically. From 1972 to 72, is it really that far?

The PotR background vocals, in places, are giving me CSN flashbacks. If the Four Horsemen do ever reunite for a show or two, I can see Already Great and, in particular, Stand Tall fitting in their set list. The latter is particularly exciting to me, painting Neil's rainbow of people on earth. It's a little surreal listening to this one on NPR, where the occasional State Farm insurance ads reminding me of the collage of voices arguing against climate deniers... and is that Bill Nye our Neil is sampling!?! Later on, when State Farm returned to shove itself between Carnival and Digging a Whole, I almost cursed. Yeah, interrupting such a sublime moment with that [crap] gets under my skin.

Digging a Whole, incidentally, is an almost perfect blues-spiritual. It reaches right down to the African American music and people that built rock 'n' roll, while calling up to the next generation.

"As we keep on building rows of boxes", all the comparisons to Sleeps with Angels, On the Beach, Harvest Moon, Eldorado, are quite accurate. But I am preferring to live in The Visitor's moment for now, let it speak on its own, unencumbered by contextualizing in the past. For me, it doesn't need that context right now.

Time to ride my llama again!

At 11/25/2017 05:35:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

I love the new album. So many great songs and the good ones will get great later, It struck me while listening to Carnival again tonight that this is what it might sound like if Tom Waits bumped into Sergeant Pepper under the big top. Neil is having the time of his life, as proven on this unique masterpiece. Listen to him laugh and describe love... "she had the sugar in her eyes." Ah yes, a man in love, if even for a moment. " I loved her dearly at that time." A reference to lovers of the past. Hey, sometimes you gotta ride. I love it. Moving on. I like the political stuff and all the songs. I am even more impressed with PotR. Forever is a song I am grateful he wrote. Like all the Johnny Cash albums with Rick Rubin. Thank God he is still letting the Muse guide him down some exhilarating corridors of his mind. I think this new album is fantastic, magnificent.?I love his art and have enjoyed these latest years very much. Keep doing it, Neil. Don't let a masterpiece get in your way. What would I give to see Neil and the boys play Carnival live?! Interesting question! Alan in Seattle

At 11/25/2017 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I have enjoyed reading all these posts on The Visitor. I will wait to hear it through a good system before diving in, but everyone here has made it clear that Neil has created something special. As much as I want to hear this new record, I have to wait for the actual release, so I can feel the music as apposed to just hearing it. Crazy as that may sound.... it's important for me.

Peace to all of you for sharing your personal reactions to this new release. You have made the wait that much harder.

At 11/25/2017 10:01:00 AM, Blogger Cheapfeet said...

To add a bit of clarity . . . the album is not brilliant, there are some dogs and I've heard better. Also, folks, Carnival sounds much more like Santana's "Smooth" than anything else.
Having said that, I like it too. It's pretty good!

At 11/25/2017 10:03:00 AM, Blogger mrtew said...

After listening a few times I started asking myself if his songs have always been to tuneless and his voice and lyrics so painful to listen to? Change of Heart is about the only bearable song I hear so far. I went back and listened to Silver and Gold and Broken Arrow and got my answer: No, he used to write actual songs with well thought out interesting stories and sentiments and original memorable melodies and he sang in a lower key that his unique voice is actually beautifully suited for. You should try his older stuff. He used to be really good!

At 11/25/2017 11:42:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

@ John Tewks, thanks for your opinion, but I respectfully disagree. Especially when you referenced Broken Arrow--if you're talking about the album, to my ears, that was one of Neil's dullest and least powerful 90s works, so yes, we all have our opinions.

This album isn't tuneless and Neil's voice isn't painful to listen to. It's a good cross section of his vocal, lyrical and musical styles, and overall his voice sounds good and strong and soothing and vulnerable to me throughout.

I get it, to you Neil's old and washed up and will never be as good as he was, yada...yada...yada. Well, maybe he's not as good as he was, but he's as good as he is today, and he's still challenging himself and challenging us. I don't know how old you are, but I hope you're as engaging and active at 72 as Neil is.

With advancing years, much is lost, but something's gained as well. Neil isn't going quietly into that good night, and on this album he's writing and playing about what matters to him in new and creative ways. There are some direct lyrics mixed in with clear metaphors mixed in with surrealistic creative imagery, and so far, all of them are resonating with me.

"You can live inside your house
or move a mountain, an elephant or a mouse"

At 11/25/2017 05:00:00 PM, Blogger mrtew said...

Wow you should listen to Broken Arrow again! It will sound like music to your ears after hearing his new album a few times! Try it! And turn it up! And I compared the new album to those two specifically to show that I don't think it's because he's "old and washed up" like you said.... he was old and washed up then too. In fact I liked Peace Trail pretty well and LOVED Psychedelic Pill and Americana and Greendale. I kinda think it's his new band that plays way too sloppy but not in a good way like Crazy Horse and harmonizes with him in a really grating way, except that Storytone and Letter Home and LeNoise are all pretty lame too. Maybe you're right: everyone just has different opinions on different albums. And I love NY and I love him making new albums every year even at the age of 72, but I would just like them to sound good, that's all! He has made SO much amazing music for like 50 years I just want to LOVE his new albums. Don't just dismiss me with your yada yada yada's ;-]. (And I'd like him to send the people that paid for his vinyl album a month or two ago the download code before he posts it online for every Joe Blow as well.)

At 11/25/2017 05:02:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

After further listening and analysis, I now disagree with my own initial perceptions of the song Carnival. I still love it, and it's still a unique masterpiece, as I felt earlier. But I now think I realize what the topic of discussion is here. Imagine the subject being the Trump Presidential reality show, "the Greatest Show on Earth." Who is the girl on the trapeze? His wife? Daughter Ivanka, more likely. "His Loudness" is a clever insult and also is a title, like "His Excellency" but it describes a loudmouth politician, a rude Billionaire we all must endure.

Neil is being intentionally vague as he speaks in the unnamed character's voice. The character is having the time of his life, laughing in glee like a president of the most powerful nation on Earth, drinking in his power, making plans to dismantle Environmental regulations and leave the Paris Climate Agreement, etc. As he laughs and funnels more cash to himself and the 1%!

The giant wheel in the sky is power and royalty, He is "blinded As it's colored clashed in my eye." (power, temptation, selfishness).He inhaled the fumes of power. He felt his mind exploding, in a rageful speech perhaps, scapegoating Mexican immigrants, etc. It was all dumbed down for the masses and the racists finally had their day. A political rally under the big top.

Trump's appointees and cronies: a potpourri of nature's mistakes. Eating Fire, swallowing snakes. The bearded lady, all under the big top, the freak show, the carpet being pulled out from under our feet as Trump deregulates Wall Street and pollution, turning modern life into a disorienting stroll under the big top spectacle. It's the Carnival of our Government today. It's a "Fun House" Nightmare, to be sure.

"Carnival" -a Brazilian reference, which combined with the Latin rhythms disguise the true subject matter of the song, yet add to its power and appeal, musically, it's a different framework.

He falls in love with a photo of a girl, and he loves her dearly, at the time. Is this saying he loves forcefully and temporarily, but for superficial reasons? She had the sugar in her eyes. A great phrase. Given the tooics on the album, it makes a lot of sense to me that this is actually a cutting masterpiece.

Who thinks I might be right? Alan in Seattle

At 11/25/2017 05:06:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Last sentence should read "Given the topics...."

At 11/25/2017 05:24:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Interesting post Alan. I certainly think Neil had Trump in mind throughout the album and he likely used the carnival theme at least partially to call Trump a carnival barker.

The song is brilliant on many levels and I'm still fully engaged by it...

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

At 11/25/2017 06:47:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I also thought maybe his references to love and the woman who mesmerized him was a sincere loving memory of Pegi or other women, perhaps the girl with red hair was his cinnamon girl, his cowgirl in the sand. Alan in Seattle. I love the reference to the sugar in the eyes and I don't like to cheapen it (in my Trump administration Circus analogy. I prefer to think of him looking at his current girlfriend and enjoying the sugar in her eyes. But I do think the majority of the song is written in witness to the Trump administration. I think the theme runs on and on. And then parts perhaps are more personal. Like when the narrator implies his mind gets blown, that is perhaps from the perspective of the citizen witness to this Circus like spectacle. The Midway. I meant to look into that reference. Alan in Seattle. PS- I Love this new album!

At 11/25/2017 06:56:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

The Midway is an area of a fair specifically for games and amusement. 1893 @ World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago coined the term, and had the side show stuff separated from the more serious exhibition halls. It's fun and games, distraction. Like the Trump administration every day.

At 11/25/2017 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I don't think the review posted on TW was very fair or accurate. I think the first rate strings and patriotic fanfare fit perfectly with the theme of Children of Destiny. The rest of the album balances out quite well, I feel. This is a classic. I loved Peace Trail, and I can see the connection there. I don't at all feel that Neil is being derivative when he happens to reuse the notes & timing of a few of his Harvest Moon classics. The song works very well. It defies you to write it off. I like it. It has a nice feel. I am glad he did it. It's nice to see people excited about this album. I will end up getting it on vinyl and CD. I wish I could buy the thing as a blue ray disc! Where is the Peace Trail Blu ray disc?! I sure do love Hitchiker. Thanks, Alan in Seattle

At 11/25/2017 07:43:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

But then I love almost every single album and song he releases. Some of his songs/albums are merely great, not like most, which are spectacular. So many underrated albums, like Le Noise, and LWW. I remain so happy he keeps delivering. Thank you Neil Young. Long May You Run. Alan in Seattle

At 11/25/2017 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

'Beautiful Transcendent Iridescence. Reminds me of his First LP. The Inside & Outside of His Head. Multiple Media Letter Exploding Before My Minds Eye, the One Right in the Middle of My Forehead' - please can someone explain this dribble? We are talking about his new record? As ever I appreciate Neil and his music and certainly can't join in with the enthusiasm here for this, but you're all welcome to your opinions but let's not elevate this above more than it is. A new NY with 1-2 decent songs.

At 11/26/2017 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

When Bad Got Worse - a bizarre record could have been better but no much worse. Lyrically once again all over the show - ok at 72 he's still relevant but perhaps to only people here. The closing track 'Forever' tries to be like Inca & Cortez but never sparks. It is better than Broken Arrow but then again that offered nothing. I admire everyone here that likes this record but much like Neil we are settling for less.

At 11/26/2017 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Mikkelrev said...

This is a really great album. There are great songs, but first and foremost this is a great ALBUM. After three days continuously listening, it's still growing. And growing. As an album, and each and every song. First I got hooked on the more accessible songs, Almost Always and Change of Heart. Then, of course, the great Carnival (a real masterpiece), but later the catchy Stand Tall (really rocking!). Then, the heavy blues songs, like Diggin' A Hole (nobody does a heavy blues better, deep South, tradition and future). Lately I have been playing Forever over and over again. The high notes, which, at first, was a little bit odd, seems more and more necessary, and makes a tune that I can't really finish (BTW, Neil has "hit" the high notes many times before, like Mellow My Mind). This record will stand out as one of Neil's finest ever.

At 11/26/2017 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Cheapfeet said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/26/2017 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Mikkelrev said...

Forgot to mention, Already Great and Children of Destiny suits well in here. There is a great variety. Not an easy record, but no fillers, and I don't get tired. With every listen I discover new elements, new feelings, new reactions. Just great.

At 11/27/2017 07:57:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Andy, I like 'em a little bizarre. Each to his own, as these comments show. When in doubt, I presume the other guy's view is as earnestly held as mine.

@Tewks and Topanga-- Broken Arrow (album) does strike me as an interesting/unusual point of reference. It has its highlights (Slip Away and Music Arcade for me), but on the whole "shapeless" is the word I come to when describing BR. Which is something I can't say about The Visitor. ("Shapeless" isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for me, BR kind of lacks momentum as an album, in spite of generally fine material.)

I think Topanga recaps things well. These new songs have both the literal and fanciful components in the lyrics. With the literal parts, moreover, I think Neil has found or is finding a way to sculpt the words gracefully. (On Digging a Hole, I almost thought at first he was a "word man", rather than a "worried man"--both work!) Almost Always and Change of Heart play more like soliloquy than almost any other NY song I can recall; they sound like thoughts cycling through someone's head, recorded verbatim. And yet, on those songs in particular, Neil never loses a sense of lyricism. There's an emphasis on the "stream" in Stream of Consciousness, so to speak.

At its best moments, music (including that offered on The Visitor) is like water from a tap or, even better, a natural spring: someone switched it on and it just keeps flowing so there's hardly the opportunity to question or wonder whether it belongs. It just fits, whether you thought it would or not. For me, The Visitor includes songs and moments where that flow, that organic quality, is apparent. It's not quite the same thing as meticulous craft, though there's some of that as well; what I'm talking about here is design by perfection, rather than the other way around.

I will repeat: enjoying this album and the songs thereon does not, to my mind, constitute settling. Nothing is permanent, so be here now because now won't always be here. If you need points of reference, think this new album fits nicely with Storytone and Peace Trail (both of which I like), and places well ahead of Monsanto Years with the same band. And yes, I'll even say that The Visitor--in its way--is on a par with Psychedelic Pill, when comparing some of the songs. I can say plenty of good things about The Horse. Sleeps with Angels might actually be my Desert Island Neil album (not that that's an easy choice), but Crazy Horse albums don't get a rating boost just for *being* Crazy Horse. And the Pill is at its best transcendent, but it's also Crazy Horse taken to its logical extreme--and, imho, that's not an album you can do over and over again.

Time to ride my llama again!

At 11/27/2017 08:03:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Speaking of Carnival...

I recently came across this 1939 piece by the English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-76): "Canadian Carnival". This is one of the places I roam when not listening to Neil Young.

Time to ride my llama again!

At 11/27/2017 11:56:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Here's a nice review from American Songwriter:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the recent past, Neil Young’s newest releases tended to be either gimmicky or strictly bound by some self-imposed restrictions. The Visitor, his collaboration with Promise Of The Real, is broad and all-encompassing. If there is one unifying factor, it’s that the subject matter can be roughly described as Young’s unflinching look at the state of the world, in all its abject beauty and squandered promise. Don’t call it a comeback, but damn if it doesn’t feel like one.

First of all, Young has found collaborators who have allowed him to deftly roam over stylistic borders and back again. On the harder numbers, Promise Of The Real follow Young ably through gritty R&B (“Stand Tall”), anthemic rock (“Children Of Destiny”), and territory hard to even describe (“Carnival,” which sounds like a big top stranded in a desert wasteland.) And when Young gets quiet and meditative, the band knows how to support him with lovely touches without getting in the way.

Young uses some of the harder-rocking tracks as a pulpit to attack the Oval Office; about the nicest thing he calls President Trump is a “game show host.” But the focus is more about giving a pep talk to the American citizens. The excellent lead track “Already Great,” which mixes fuzzed-out glory with dreamy refrains, provides the perspective of a Canadian who views his Southern neighbors with empathy and affection. “Children Of Destiny” combines fist-pumping exhortations with quiet orchestral verses fearing the worst-case scenario that occurs when citizens stand back and stay quiet.

Even on the shorter filler songs, Young sounds like he’s having a blast. The Visitor also makes room for a pair of rambling acoustic epics. “Almost Always” lopes along between striking personal and political observations, while “Forever” takes ten-and-a-half gorgeous minutes to lay out Young’s Utopian visions and environmental concerns. “I really want to make a difference,” he sings. As if he hasn’t already. As if he hasn’t done it again.

I concur, Neil has made a difference, and once again he has surprised me in a positive way. This album "sounds" like Neil Young, but here we find him tweaking his finer points and trying new things as he continues his search for that elusive perfect note. He hasn't given up and neither should we...

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"


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