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Friday, December 17, 2021

Comment of the Moment: BARN by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

BARN
 by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Lots of chatter on the merits on the latest album by Neil Young & Crazy Horse BARN.

Here on TW, comments have been -- as usual -- all over the map. 

So, without further ado, we bring you our TW Comment of the Moment on INTERVIEW: Neil Young - ‘Barn’ with Crazy Horse and Being Future-Forward with Care for the Past | Apple Music by the "Inextinguishable Scotsman":

Even as it tackles uncomfortable themes, Barn is a comforting sort of record.

(Which is exactly what we all need right now, isn't it?)

You can be a die-hard Crazy Horse fanatic and like—if not love—this record. You can also play it at respectable volume with no risk of animal cruelty charges for terrifying your neighbour's cat.

Sure, there are moments of appropriately hellish brutality on this record. But they're controlled — unleashed on tap for a few seething minutes.... or moments.

Actually, this record reminds more of Prarie Wind and Living With War than Weld or Arc. A lot of it is acoustic-based: mellow and laid-back.

And, on some of its most powerful tracks, there's that Sleeps With Angels vibe in there, too.

The songs are short and sweet. There's a sense of most of them being lightly dipped in honey before being packaged for public consumption.

(Raw live performance enhanced with a little sparkle and polish — that's the trademark of more than a few classic Neil albums.)

And Crazy Horse are playing quite beautifully. Colorado (an idiosyncratic performance piece that demands you give it another listen) sounded like it was recorded in the ruins of a dead city. And if Ralph Molina's drumming sounded incompetent, well, maybe that's why.

Or maybe he was just hearing the songs for the first time.

On Barn, meanwhile, Crazy Horse *as a band* are somewhere scarily close to their best. (I wrote about Nils' contribution to the band in my old Colorado review, so I won't retread the same ground, here).

And most of the music itself is less eccentric than that on Greendale or Colorado. That means it's extremely easy to like and admire... but perhaps harder to fall deeply in love with.

(There's no comparison to Psychedelic Pill. That's an album with Poncho Sampedro on guitar — a disruptive monster that obliterates the footsteps of Rust and Weld, not Harvest or Peace Trail).

Welcome Back is the song getting most of the attention. And maybe for compelling reason:

It single-handedly proves my incessant point that the magic (the spook!) lives in the spaces *between* the instruments, the sounds, the echoes, the reverberations...

Fill in these spaces, and you give the listener's imagination no room to manoeuvre. That's enough to kill the spook... and the record. No such complaints here.

Welcome Back, musically gorgeous, is also the song that exposes the sporadic "iffy-ness" of Neil's songwriting for the last few years. Namely, his adversion to sticking with the songwriting process until the occasional bouts of blandness turn (mutate? Grow? Evolve?) into something greater.

(Example? In the previous paragraph, notice how I used the phrase "something greater". That itself is a bland phrase! And even just spending an extra 10 seconds tweaking it would have awarded me a more vivid way of putting the same sentiment.)

Realistically, I think Neil is naturally a die-hard perfectionist. He's one of the most focused people I know. For years, his working methods proved this.

And sometimes, he went too far. Overkill!

He burned himself out, and others, too. Razor-sharp records were sabotaged by too much tampering *at the end of the process* by an intense artist who didn't know when to stop.

And sometimes he tries to avoid that grisly fate by going to the other extreme — of accepting as Gospel whatever words effortlessly end up on the first draft. No effort, no editing: just capture the moment.

The problem, of course, is that the first idea is rarely the best one — it just opens the door for the best one. So, do you stick around and hold the door open or not?

Maybe Neil disagrees with me, I don't know. But I think just a little extra perseverance, and just a little editing, goes a long way.

And maybe Canerican disproves everything I've just said. Because the fusion of its sublime, swaggering, in-your-face sound and nuanced, fragile vocal delivery completely negates the fact that's its lyric is an under-ripe corn cob.

(But, can we agree, a sharpened lyric rarely does any harm — and often does a lot of good?)

So I've said everything I have to say about Barn, right now.

No, it doesn't have the red-hot intensity of Walk Like A Giant, nor the haunting deviousness of I Do. No matter! This is a different record.

It's warming and comforting, colourful, gutsy-when-required and also quite beautifully performed. And the spook is well and truly back.

Oh! One more thing —

How about "They Might Be Lost"? That's one of those songs that comes out of nowhere — either a gift from the Gods, a gift from the unconscious mind, or a gift from Marijuana... It depends on how you look at it.

(Opinion: I think one of those explanations, at least, is a cop out; if not all of them).

Either way, it's a song—and performance—that *makes* you feel something, rather than tells you how to feel. That, in my opinion, is one of Neil's greatest talents or skills.

The journey continues! And I for one am grateful we're still here to see what happens next.

(One day, the time may come when I no longer care if tomorrow will arrive or not. That time is not now.)

I wish you all the best for the Christmas/holiday period, and for 2022. Let's keep going.

Scotsman.


So many great points here "Inextinguishable Scotsman"!  Your input here on TW is most treasured to us and invaluable to our readers.  Your keen observations really help us all as we sperate the wheat grains from the chaff stalks.

Be the gRAIN!

More on BARN  by Neil Young & Crazy Horse:


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46 Comments:

At 12/18/2021 12:40:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

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At 12/18/2021 12:41:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

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At 12/18/2021 12:54:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

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At 12/18/2021 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

(Part 1... my edit got away from me)

Great review of Barn, Flying Scotsman. Thank you. I agree about similarities to CDII and SWA. Thanks to all who have shared their thoughts about Barn. You guys have great taste in Neil Young music. I know of no better compliment to give you.

Barn is fantastic, a Masterpiece, a true Classic from NYCH. Neil's high notes in Shape of You even work!. Neil actually did catch lightning in a bottle again, in the Barn. This is why I should always wait to write a review of Neil's latest albums. You guys have insightful points and praise for Neil's latest album, a few harsh opinions aside.

The Moon pulls Neil Young. No wonder he is chasing it West as it sets below our horizon. Recent scientific research has shown humans need less sleep during full moons. It is the time to launch raids, sneak across a border, or make a NY album.

I interpret the Heading West symbolically as the afterlife. He will revisit his nicest memories of his youth. To be with his Mom he must leave this world. West, to live his best life again, as a kid, in Mommy's little car, fishing at the mill. She bought him his 1st guitar. But the Author is entirely at Peace with it and he is going towards Bliss. The vibe is very positive, mostly, not at all dark or sad.* It is a lighthearted and uplifting reward in the west, nothing to cry or even die over, not permanently anyway.

*Of course, the children of Fire & Flood will have it very Rough in their near-future overheated world.
Too bad us folks didn't do more to Save The Planet! Or perhaps we could do something about it yet. #ExtinctionRebellion

 
At 12/18/2021 01:01:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Part 2: (Apologies for much editing and deleted posts)

I love the term used by Scotsman to describe NYCH in Welcome Back as they release Gobs of Grunge: "Hellish" power! Indeed.

It's all One song, but somehow unique & fresh, eternally. I favor Neil's Grungy Rock over his acoustic accomplishments somewhat. This song does the trick for me. I could listen to Neil play Old Black for an Eternity.

Neil tips the hat to 10 men workin' and throws in a few flourishes of Bluenotes style "Power Swing."

A music guru once said "Its not knowing what to play. Its knowing what not to play." Barn has space and leaves me with a relaxed, content, optimistic feeling. The band is is loose partly due to Neil's "record it as you learn it" preference. But the album is somehow solid too.

I always thought the term "Don't Spook the Horse" had a different meaning: Don't mess with the band or else they might get unwieldly. I figured it was Neil's rule not to overly complicate it with the Horse. He has said he would avoid them for more complicated music such as AYP? w/ Booker T & the MG's. SWA was complex, but it worked out well. I'm from the city but I was on a horse once that got spooked and it was not a pleasure cruise. The Horse has to be relaxed and assured. No spurs. If the Horse getting spooked is a good thing, why say "Don't Spook the Horse" when the band is in its prime and playing well?

Neil became a US citizen to vote against his Nemesis. But before long he was yearning to return to Canada; Classic Neil! Hell, I'd be Canerican too! But Canada is ruled by Big Oil & the 1% just like US. They have less of a War economy. But half the fossil fuel the US burns is by the Military and we have gotten an enormous amount of Oil from Canada.

Nowadays Canada plunders Tar Sands Oil which releases 30 x more pollution than other forms of extraction. Tar sands Oil is then shipped south in pipelines across the US to the Gulf of mexico, where it is shipped overseas for refinement. By nature the investment in Pipelines, they are hard to shut down, and their existence makes it much harder to Save Earth soon enough to avoid mass extinction due to warming. The DAPL is one of those; it was shoved under the Missouri river as Obama (and then of course, Trump) did nothing to protect the Standing Rock Sioux's watershed. That river is also the source of drinking water for literally millions of unaware. unknowing, uninterested Americans downstream. Oil in your drinking water will be a problem. Oil Pipelines leak. The Children of the Fires and Floods have a lot more problems than just Fires and Floods.

I find Barn to be an incredibly good album. But I have the ears for it.

Alan in Seattle

 
At 12/18/2021 01:13:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Scotsman has some good insights here. And Barn is a good album, if not a great one. Welcome Back stands with the best Neil has made. I’m happy getting one or two gems an album at this stage in the game. Going back to give Colorado a few listens as well.

Steve on Highway7

 
At 12/18/2021 02:07:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

The Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau, gives Barn an A.

Here is Xgau's review: https://bit.ly/3e6VuMx

No pay wall now, but there may be one soon.

 
At 12/18/2021 02:18:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

III : "Don't Spook the Horse." Meaning? The band is together, don't change a thing! Because it will go wrong if you do.

"Don't Spook the Horse" could mean "Don't blow it. This is good. Leave well enough alone."

This gorgeous grungey classic of a song plods slowly along and is in no hurry to stop. The story tells of getting lucky with the Farmer's daughter, in the Barn. Be sure to close the Barn door... Try to not spook the horse." That would be bad!

Be the Rain. Alan in Seattle


 
At 12/18/2021 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

We finally received our Deluxe Edition of Barn and the first thing I played was the vinyl, and it had marks all over side two and was incredibly heavy on surface noise. So I requested a replacement disc, and they responded the same day…..Amazing.

Last night we watched the Blu Ray and the sound and picture kept going out of sync, along with an occasional static noise, so today we played it on a different player and it did the same exact thing…..SO… I’ve requested a replacement disc…..Very disappointed to say the least. Now I’m afraid to play the CD now….. has anyone else had a problem with the Blu Ray????



I’m absolutely loving this new album, and I feel it’s yet another great Crazy Horse record,and like many Crazy Horse records, it gets better each time I play it. Every song fits in beautifully within the whole, and the sequencing is a masterwork of contrast and relief. The sound quality is incredible and the whole band really gels. Each one brings their own unique qualities to the table, and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to watch them work together. They really do create something special when they get together.

The only song that seemed a bit off on first listen was The Shape of You, but on the second pass I realized that it’s a perfect song at that point in the album, and it reminds me of something from the ‘Tonight’s the Night’ sessions. It’s just very loose and free wheeling and actually charmed me a lot.

Canerican, Human Race, and Welcome Back are each big stand outs, both lyrically and musically. All three have huge potential for extended jams in a concert setting. They Might Be Lost feels like an outtake from Hawks & Doves, and for me anyway, a real highlight of the entire album. Change Ain’t Never Gonna is a great little cooker with an amazing groove. Tumblin’ Through the Years, and Don’t Forget Love are both real gems, and they remind me of so many other songs Neil has done before. Song of the Seasons is a perfect first song and Nils takes the wheel on this one with the accordion, just perfect. Neil pays tribute to his mom on Heading West, and reflects fondly on his early career.

I make a conscious point of avoiding comparisons or holding any kind of expectation when a new Neil album comes out. I find it best to meet him exactly where he’s at, and not where he’s been. This allows me the opportunity to listen with an open mind and a an open heart, and after four trips through this record I can safely say that it’s an absolute masterpiece. I agree with Neil’s assessment that this is a great Crazy Horse record, and I believe that as fans listen through this a few times, they will eventually concur with that assessment. I’m very impressed that these four guys continue to bring their best each and every time they record together, amazing after all these years. Really amazing.

 
At 12/18/2021 09:47:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Thank you Alan and Dan. Can you guys tell me, is the lyric: "we're sewn together in the way that we feel" or is it, "we are so together in the way that we feel"? I thought it was the former and so it seems to me better.

 
At 12/19/2021 01:03:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

The lyric sheet from CD says "We're so together in the way that we feel..."

Glad he included the lyrics on this. I miss them sometimes. Neil has been known to black out lyrics from an album at the last minute. He did that on Ragged Glory, I seem to remember.

 
At 12/19/2021 04:06:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

@danswan Sorry to hear that, my Vinyl and BluRay are fine. Guess you got very unlucky.

 
At 12/19/2021 05:24:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

What a wonderful film this is, the complete opposite of Mountain Top, I found that angry, abrasive, even abusive. This is all about the love, just a group of old friends making a simply superb album. I'll not give away any spoilers but there are three killer funny scenes. I have watched it now four times and seriously its getting better with every viewing. The final montage is just so beautiful.

 
At 12/19/2021 06:35:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Spoiler: the Barn Blu-Ray has dogs.

(For people like me, that is recommendation enough).

How about Mountaintop? The key to enjoying it is to see it within the boundaries of what it actually is — a piece of performance art (where the lines between art and life are blurred, but not completely nonexistent).

Example:

Notice in the Mountaintop trailer how Neil is sort of half-heartedly crooning the lyrics to Help Me Lose My Mind.

And it's not working. He's singing this song that's SUPPOSED to be angry, supposed to have a tenuous grasp of sanity — and he sounds likes he's reading the obituary section in the local paper.

And so the ensuing nuclear fall-out about the studio equipment is the rocket fuel the song is begging for. I think the post-rant version of Help Me Lose My Mind is one of Neil's most convincing studio performances — the man and the song become as one.

And of course, Bernard Shakey knows he's being filmed.

Domestic bliss might be what we all strive for — but it makes for a dull soap opera.

Scotsman.

 
At 12/19/2021 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Thanks to the Inextinguishable Scotsman for these reflections. Barn has grown on me, like so many Neil Young albums over the years. I’ve enjoyed listening to it in context of the times and the reunion of Crazy Horse with Nils amid the changes wrought by the Trump years and the pandemic. If you folks were over at the house for a cookout listening party, here would be the playlist I’d put on to celebrate this era of the Horse from 2019 to present. In retrospect it’s pretty cool that all this new music has come out in barely two years; it’s felt like twice that in COVID time.

Listening to Colorado I like to take it in Mountaintop order. That’s a hard movie to watch. I’ve never seen our guy be quite so acerbic toward his compatriots, especially poor John H, with his poison-oak-itching hands! But the song sequence is an appealing alternative to the jumbled, top heavy feel of the album, which relegated Truth Kills, the best track, to a supplemental seven inch released the same day. Let’s restore it to album status. Think Of Me is the only song not in the film so it can keep its top spot. The solo electric Rainbow Of Colors was performed later and plays like a nice bonus to the record.

When we Shut It Down in 2020 and Neil holed up with the wife high in the Rockies, he gave us the Fireside Sessions, culminating with the Porch Episode. Retitled The Times for mass access, the little record wisely retains its Porch presentation. This set exists beautifully between the two Horse records as a document of individual isolation in times of social upheaval. Its inclusion adds gravity to Barn when 2021 comes around with callbacks to those initial unnerving days. Little Wing is such a gorgeous closer. I still remember staying up late and watching that final Fireside Session, seeing the sun go down as the guitarist improvised the coda.

Following the arc of these two albums, Barn is all the more triumphant a production. Characterized by spontaneity, with Neil doubling down on his first possible take ethos, it exists more immediately than Colorado or even the lo-fi truthfulness of The Times, which is essentially a set of Neil Young covering Neil Young and Bob Dylan. What hurt my heart most upon hearing Barn in full was all the fade-outs in its first half. Canerican is perhaps the most egregious of these. We may ask the Archives nicely for the full cut of this barnburner, but in my heart I’ll continue to demand it.

 
At 12/19/2021 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Now let’s talk about fade-outs some more. It’s only speculative the reason for shortening Canerican but my guess is it was to keep the vinyl a single LP and to fit more songs. The only issue with that tack is that Shape Of You and Change Ain’t Never Gonna happen to fade out too, effecting the least natural aspect of a very natural album (the one song the technique actually works on is Tumblin’ Thru The Years where it has the effect of illustrating how endless the years would be without their love). A peek at the Cabinet confirms the suspicion that Shape and Change Ain’t were the earliest of the session, warm-ups for the full moon awesomeness ahead. Their artificial brevity suggests that NYCH were still finding their footing on those first two days in the barn, and the songs precede the true Barn for me as a pair of bonus tracks. It would be amazing to get to experience them live with the Horse fully prepared to do them justice. Meanwhile, we all know it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Barn is introduced proper with Song Of The Seasons, one I confess first underwhelmed me on its own but does great at setting the stage for the emotions of the album. It’s nice how the geese of Think Of Me appear to migrate home for another season of songs. From here it’s easy enough to follow the barn sessions in the order in which they occurred. The only exception to this method of musical enjoyment is keeping Human Race, the last-recorded track (in the middle of a hailstorm, no less) in its rightful place within the sequence of Barn’s absolutely masterful second half. It seems to me we’re all in agreement that Welcome Back ranks among the finest modern day Neil Young recordings. A whole reply message of this length could be written about that song alone. And what a lovely, moving conclusion to the album in Don’t Forget Love. I’m glad this Saturday has given me the opportunity to really take the time to explore Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Barn.

Barn/Mountaintop (Tomatron’s Cookout Playlist)

Think Of Me
Rainbow Of Colors
Eternity
Help Me Lose My Mind
Olden Days
Shut It Down
Green Is Blue
Milky Way
Truth Kills
I Do
She Showed Me Love
Rainbow Of Colors (Truth Kills version)
Alabama
Campaigner
Ohio
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Lookin’ For A Leader 2020
Southern Man
Little Wing
Shape Of You
Change Ain’t Never Gonna
Song Of The Seasons
Heading West
Canerican
They Might Be Lost
Human Race
Tumblin’ Thru The Years
Welcome Back
Don’t Forget Love

 
At 12/20/2021 10:40:00 AM, Blogger Mick Funz said...

Barn is not "GREAT". I enjoy it, it's got a vibe . . . but all the reviews, especially at this place, are less about Neil's new music and more about the feelings of the consumer/fans who continue to follow or purchase his products.
As many of Neil's fans are aging their judgment of contemporary art is personalized. Just a spark or a faint taste of something that may or may not remind them of the good old days influences undue ejaculations of "support" for an artist and a style of music that is passing us by.

The songs that fade out fade out because the band didn't know the song well enough to end them in a cohesive manner. Simple as that.

Neil is telling us in all the recent interviews how he writes songs now. To the purchasing consumer this info may not strike home but to many others, perhaps especially the fellow songwriters in his fanbase, what we're being told, not so subtly, is that Neil's muse is gone; he can barely spend the brain power to worry or work a song anymore because they're not good enough to spend much time on and to look too closely at this reality would be disruptive to the half-assed process that now births them. He's telling this to our faces and we need to grow up and enjoy the new music with these facts.

Too many Neil fans have become something like cheerleaders. Scotsman's long-winded responses are a version of this.

I like BARN but I don't lie to myself and say it's something it's not. When people do this, what can we assume their minds do in other parts of life? Honesty is worth a million positive vibes.

 
At 12/20/2021 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

"The first idea is rarely the best" is an understatement. I can't speak to music but I can to ideas. Philosophy dies with first ideas, even from the best philosophers. As the editor of a journal, I know the same is true of poetry. I have worked with poets who will spend weeks on a few words. How all this works "within music" is just one more question. I don't know the answer to this question. It does seem true that lyrics can be improved by the right sounds. And perhaps the same is true in reverse, that the elements of sound can be improved by a lyric. If you take many of Neil Young's lyrics away from the sound they are of very little interest and this seems especially true in the last decade. I listened to Like a Hurricane the other night and the lyrics can be isolated as banal, as something a good high school level poet might write down. But then the music, the guitar, and the lyrics combine and something totally different, a different entity, emerges. A simple truth logically follows. There is no way to fully understand or (or complete any sort of analysis) by "breaking down the parts." It is unquestionably a whole thing, and each piece is what it is from the other pieces. Now, I don't know how such a unit can be properly analyzed as it is made up of by more than just ideas and concepts. This is why I think aesthetic practice reveals the truth rather than articulating or demonstrating the truth.

 
At 12/20/2021 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/20/2021 12:15:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Mick Funz: I don't think I am a "cheerleader" at all. In fact, roughly 50% of the folks here are usually on my case for being too critical.

(Often, that's because negative opinions touch an emotional nerve more strongly than positive ones.)

Nowhere in my review have I said Barn is a "great" album, whatever that means, but I did like it.

So in other words, not an opinion that's entirely different to yours.

I respect the readers of Thrasher's blog and try to write comments that are constructive. I'm sorry this doesn't always lend itself to a polarised extreme view.

I will say that I did listen to Neil's album a few times before commenting on it. But I'm not convinced you read my review/rant/"long-winded opinion piece" before commenting on it.

Scotsman.


PS —— Nor do I consider myself to be one of these "aging" fans you talk about with supposedly severely-impaired judgement.

Nothing wrong with the monocle, pipe and slippers — but I'm not ready for them just yet, thanks!

 
At 12/20/2021 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Ab: I love this point about the futility of breaking down the parts.

Comparable—sort of—to wondering why the heart, liver or spleen don't function properly when dissected from the other organs!

 
At 12/20/2021 12:38:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

This probably doesn't even need to be said but Scotsman brings humor, wit, and serious critical insight on this thread and, I am sure, in many other places. I would also add that aging does not necessarily mean weakened judgment or logical ability. This is a bias. In fact, if we maintain our vigor and diligence, our judgment improves with age. Be careful with the "ageism" Mick. On the other side of the coin is the equally hasty generalization that younger people are too immature to really have insight. We have to pay attention to what is ACTUALLY said, argued, or implied- otherwise the slip to ad hominem (see your above post).

 
At 12/20/2021 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Scotsman, this is precisely the point in ecological thinking. If someone in anatomy wants to really understand any organ, they must understand the relationship between parts. Social systems need to be studied in the same way.

 
At 12/20/2021 05:47:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Hey Mick, you’re on the money re: the fade outs. For the most part, they demonstrate the inability of the band to properly end the songs. To sum up my appreciation of them in Barn, I only like the end of one out of the four tracks that do this. Tumblin’ benefits from the fade. Canerican suffers from it majorly. Shape and Change sound unfinished. However it’s a leap to say they couldn’t end the song competently. It’s possible a song had a good ending, but somebody flubbed their part beyond repair in their way to that ending. Canerican may have an epic instrumental passage that keeps going with no problem but it got sliced early to make it fit between the other faded tracks. We don’t know what happened beyond the fade (unless it’s in the full movie which hasn’t yet hit NYA). But I agree this effect repeated is a sign that the band couldn’t quite land the flight in a few instances, and it hurts the first half of the record as sequenced. I try to adjust for that on the above playlist and probably won’t bother with the vinyl edition.

As for the lyrics, I hear it differently. The rough draft approach results in a less predictable final product. I sure would love if Neil had polished more than a few of those clunky lines. But he also ends up with lines that are stark and elemental through this process. 19th century American folk art produced beautiful portraits done in a plain style. While a more renowned painter could have produced a more refined likeness, the portrait the artist completed was beautiful regardless (arguably more so in many cases), saying much about the society and the individuals portrayed. It’s my belief that by minimizing revision efforts, Neil Young is attempting to capture that aesthetic of simplicity that we know he has often strived for. The listener is left with a trade-off. Lines spill over into the next bar. Phrases seem under-considered. But truth is spoken unfiltered and direct from the speaker’s impressions. Slapdash verses unvarnished become essential expressions. Welcome Back.

My verdict: while the first half of the album is interrupted by the rushed approach, the second half together shines as some of Neil’s best work of the past decade. It took an extra listen or two for me to discover Barn’s gifts. I wanted to post this as a reply to Mick’s post but my phone doesn’t agree with the message board’s platform I guess.

 
At 12/20/2021 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

@Mike Funz : Once you grow up you will know more, and you will know better.

You don't have ears for Neil Young. You missed out on a lot of things so far.

Who made a better album?

Neil is a 76 year old Godfather of Grunge, a poet extraordinaire who has remained relevant for 50+ years, a living legend rocking out and making a great album is quite an accomplishment. He is one of the only 5 rock songwriters who compete for #1. This list includes Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and one other I will let people fill in, not Bruce Springsteen.

Just listen to Human Race and tell me he doesn't matter. He is playing searing grunge folk, with energy, passion, anger, and skill. You don't even know what that is.

Happy Holidays.

Alan in Seattle

 
At 12/20/2021 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12/20/2021 06:51:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I think it’s important to mention that the spoken word and the written word are two different animals. This is why one can be easily misunderstood through texting, because it lacks the musicality of speech. Ones intentions are easier to understand when they are heard. That musicality of language works even better with music behind it. The music can accentuate certain words or phrases as the vocalist changes the dynamics of the lyrics to fit the music. That’s why when you read lyrics of a song, they may not carry the same impact as they do when you actually listen to the song. The combination is what makes the magic of a great song, as the lyrics work with the melody and the music to create something bigger than the individual elements on their own.

I think perhaps folks may be over analyzing the fade outs, as they simply might just be the way Neil thought they should end. I will say that the fact that these songs fading out too early (for some) could be an indication that the listener really wanted the song to keep going, and that’s a great sign of a great song.

Peace 🙏

 
At 12/20/2021 09:56:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis; The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I'm just loving the vinous flow of comments here. Scotsman's wit and clarity, Dan's characteristic earnest perceptiveness, and Tomatron's attention to detail.

To pick up just a couple of points, I did notice the fade-outs. Neil is often less reliant on this device but I'm surprised so much is being made of it. I suspect the repeated fades, for some listeners, disrupt the flow between songs, pulling people out of their crucial listening experiences. That's a completely reasonable response--but trying to rationalize our responses often causes overthinking.

On repeated listening, I'm finding the fades less distracting. It's interesting how the listening experience can evolve as one grows familiar with the sound of the album. The first time around, it's easy to get caught up in a broad, sweeping assessment of the songs. It's only when the newness dims that one can tune into nuances, hearing how the pieces fit together (or don't) and why.

That's about where I am with Barn right now. Given the level of distraction and anxiety I've had to deal with recently for unrelated reasons, my impressions of the album are still very much coming into focus.

 
At 12/20/2021 11:57:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Dan, I notice that many really good poets are focused hard on just what is written. Your points are well taken.

 
At 12/21/2021 01:28:00 AM, Blogger Tomatron said...

They Might Be Lost through Don’t Forget Love is, for me, the best consecutive five song run of new NY album tracks since Psychedelic Pill. I wouldn’t mind though if Shape Of You faded out a little earlier.

 
At 12/21/2021 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Minke said...

Interesting thread on fade outs. Recently been revisiting Rust Never Sleeps. The acoustic guitar lick at the beginning of Hey hey my my are good for goose pimps (and hear how much his style has evolved over the decades, not necessarily for the worse). Now something I had strangely forgotten was the disappointing fade out at the end of the song. Really a bummer.... I am sure NY knew how to end that one, and perhaps the audience was not collaborating (but then he could have chosen a different performance to put on record). Just to say that we are ignoramuses when it comes to the artistic decisions. We can only judge the results, not the intentions.
Greetings to all, Minke

 
At 12/21/2021 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Minke said...

bumps...

 
At 12/21/2021 01:45:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Alan -

'Once you grow up you will know more, and you will know better.

You don't have ears for Neil Young. You missed out on a lot of things so far.'

Could you be more arrogant and condescending?

I so wish I could block your comments here - you are a certified ass

Sorry Thrasher this guy is a joke

 
At 12/21/2021 01:55:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

"They Might Be Lost" is my favorite song on Barn. It seems pretty much universal. I have felt that "I might Be Lost" on many a day. No matter how good the direction, how accurate the map, how well-planned the decisions, we might be lost. Thanks Neil.

 
At 12/21/2021 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Well said and spot on, Jonathan

 
At 12/22/2021 07:40:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Ian: I agree. I think the fades keep the songs sharply focused, and (deliberately or otherwise) keep this album rooted in a firmly different camp to Psychedelic Pill.

(Sorry to hear about "distraction and anxiety" — I hope you are okay)

Scotsman.

 
At 12/22/2021 02:48:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Revision: the second half of Barn is the best five-song run since the middle of Sleeps With Angels. And one of those songs even has a fade-out! Heading West and Canerican are awesome too. But cutting out in the middle of the instrumental break of Canerican? Talk about the Grinchy Hand. You’re a mean one, Mr. Young.

 
At 12/22/2021 04:19:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Revision/ Final Draft: In today’s replies to Letters to The Editor, Neil promises CANERICAN WITH A COMPLETE ENDING COMING SOON! Sing Hosanna and hope I get solar in my stocking and no coal!!

 
At 12/23/2021 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Hambone said...

Maybe with so many transient meetings people have right now - not feeling comfortable staying any time with any one group of people - the fade outs became a kinda symbol of social distancing to the band. I don't mean that it was a conscious decision made whilst recording, but it emerged as a musical accompaniment to these strange times.

But like meeting up with friends when each side feels safe, the songs promise something way more substantial when finally played live, so an extended Canerican could be a big teaser.

And it's that time of year to wish everyone here the best of winter festivities, in person and on-line, and a safe and Happy New Year.

Thrasher & Thrashette, hope the home rebuilt doesn't get delayed by winter weather and thanks for keeping us connected at this most exciting time for new releases.

And finally I got an unexpected Christmas gift yesterday with the publication of a letter in the latest batch of letters on NYA (it's further down after the extended Canerican announcement) and a reply from Neil to all UK fans. That is one hell of a way to finish the year.

Happy holidays,
Tony "Hambone"

 
At 12/24/2021 01:24:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

From Bentley's Bandstand by Bill Bentley:

"And I can only say that Neil Young's new album BARN hit me with a total wallop right between the eyes.

I search high and low now for rock & roll that really gets me. There are now so many different styles of music to search out, sometimes I get lost in the albums at the store that get stocked on the floor. So many interesting things are lurking down there, I don't get too hung up on the new major label releases. But sometimes that changes and an album seems to be calling to me to listen. That's what BARN did. Anytime Crazy Horse is on the bandstand with Young, it's a good bet things are going to fly. They're a band that doesn't approach music with any guidelines but their own. They play with ultimate feel, and seem to know exactly what is needed to turn a song into a soaring statement, one that gets imprinted on the heart and the soul at the same time. It's the kind of performance which really can't be taught. Rather, it is learned over the 50-plus years they've been playing together, and always sounds now like they are playing with one head.

Joining original members bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina is Nils Lofgren on guitars, piano, accordion and vocals, Crazy Horse is totally at full strength."

Full review @
https://neilyoungarchives.com/news/1/article?id=Bentley-Barn-Again

 
At 12/24/2021 04:56:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

I've only listened to Barn a couple of times. I was struck how many of the songs -- particularly Welcome -- resemble the midnight musings of Coup Deville, Music Arcade, and Trans. Thoughtful and deliberate, this is Neil at his core.

Coup: https://bit.ly/3qogap5
Arcade: https://bit.ly/32nwzCg
Trans: https://bit.ly/3yUVgls
Welcome: https://bit.ly/3mxCsn9

 
At 12/26/2021 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Mick Funz said...

Hey Alan, you are a riot! I've been a Neil fan for 30+ yrs and have all his albums and have seen him in concert. I'm also a long time performing and recording artist who has written hundreds of songs. My point being, I know what I know and I have insight into being a performing/writing musician that chatters at a blog may not have.

I'm middle aged, gang, I'm no kid.

I notice all around me the softening effect time has on my contemporaries and REALLY see it when I hear apologists.

Because I think BARN is an ok but not amazing record I'm confused?!

Ha!

Seriously Alan, if you think your line of BS works on others like it might your spouse or kids, you need to get out into the world more.

 
At 12/26/2021 01:34:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

This requires pushback. Perhaps Alan overstated some points because he is enthusiastic. But Mick, your own points are burdened by bias. I don't think you are going to find an social science that supports softening of critical judgment by age. I repeat my previous point about ageism. You might also want to look at Robert Christgau's review of Barn and he is the critic who has not even bothered to review some of Neil's more recent releases. Scotsman, as noted, has articulated tough criticisms in a number of his wonderfully written posts. I challenge you to find "the softening effect" in any way verified by any sort of study. It sounds like you are using entirely anecdotal evidence, in other words you are "personalizing"- exactly what you accused others of doing! This is, of course, hypocritical. What passes as softening might also be a tempered measure. And the idea that Neil's sort of music (whatever that really amounts to) is being passed by is more anecdotal nonsense. We also need to forgive each other for getting too involved in some of these points. Don't take this personally.

 
At 12/26/2021 06:01:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis; The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I would just add, if I may, there are a number of measures by which to choose to judge album. If we’re talking recording and production quality, so many of Neil’s albums have that home made, rough-hewn feeling, I just don’t know why anyone would be surprised. Surely we don’t expect this kind of polish from the Horse? Neil is obsessed with sound, so the recording and mastering itself defies comparison, but the performances—for lack of a better description of the Horse in action—have the spontaneous messiness that marks many, if not most, of Neil’s albums.

The songs? Inevitably a matter of taste and preference. It’s worth noting just how subjective any of these assessments are, regardless of how many years or how much professional music experience one has. All of which to say, I’m puzzled by the implication of that Barn is any more slapdash than a number of other albums or why any fan would be miffed about rough edges on an NY/CH recording.Yet I’m trying not to be judgmental about other people’s judgments.

Canerican hits a groove, early fade or no. Shape of You is a hoot and has been caught in my head for days. Welcome Back moody, slow, and textured in a way that demands repeat listening to feel the sound and structure. WB in particular gives me shades of Blue Eden or AYP?’s title number. It tickles me how the title, Welcome Back, is usually heard as a cheerful greeting but the song id chilly. Defying expectations is part of what makes art and NY + CH rarely come up short on that metric.

 
At 12/26/2021 07:04:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

As I’ve mentioned before, I really feel that Barn is a remarkable example of brilliant sequencing. This album flows smoothly with such graceful ebb and flow, elevating the entire record. For those having issues with Barn, I encourage you to listen without expectations, and I think you’ll discover that there is much more here than just a collection of songs.

Peace 🙏

 
At 12/27/2021 06:20:00 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Can we just lose the "it's all one song", tag for awhile, or forever? Yeah, I know "Human Race" sounds like "Spirit Road", and others sound like others. So what. That happens over 50 plus years of songwriting. Two notes about Barn. "Welcome Home" doesn't have to be compared to any other Neil song, or referenced to any other album from the past. It is uniquely, and on it's own, as brilliant a composition as if it had been written decades ago, or in this case, months ago. And if we are all being honest, Neil's 'epic' songs are much fewer and farther between these days. The fact that he can still produce them at 76 years old, which he has done here, is as remarkable as it is inspiring. "Welcome Home" is Neil at his best. It can be played on a loop all day long. But! It is not the best song on Barn. That belongs to, "They Might Be Lost". When Neil reminds us repeatedly that it's "how it feels", this song is the definition. "They Might Be Lost" reminds me why I love Neil Young's music like no other. Immersive, hypnotic, soul moving. "Let the sand wash over you"!

 

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