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Saturday, December 16, 2023

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's New Album "Before And After"

"Before And After" by Neil Young - Vinyl
 (Click photo to enlarge)

The reviews for Neil Young's latest album "Before And After" continue to ebb and flow.

So here's a Comment of the Moment on the post Review of the Moment: Neil Young's New Album "Before And After" by Art Symbol:

Interestingly, Before and After has garnered a bit more interest in the UK mainstream press than Neil Young’s recent releases such as World Record or Barn and you might wonder why. 

The US Slant magazine review (which is up on NYA Times Contrarian) makes an interesting point, often overlooked when discussing Neil Young’s work, which is that he’s a “conceptual thinker”. 

According to Wikipedia conceptual art “is art in which the concept(s) or ideas involved in the work are prioritised equally to or more than traditional aesthetic, technical, and material concerns”. 

Young has been an artist who puts his songs at the service of an overall theme, often discarding some of his greatest songs because they didn’t fit. As a result his true greatness as a songwriter to the general public may have been overlooked to some degree. 

Which is why Before and After is interesting, as it clearly puts the songs in the service of the album. The theme is the songs. This is especially highlighted by the sequencing and the transitions. Going from one melody straight into another in such an apparently seamless way brings out the true beauty of those melodies. 

The matching of the melody and the lyrics, which as Randy Newman has pointed out before, don’t always look good on the page but when performed together with that vocal delivery, it’s as though he’s nailed that feeling, that thought, in its most consummate form. 

You get the feeling that the artist is vindicating himself and rightly so.

Thanks Art! Good points on our favorite “conceptual thinker”.   If you listen to the recent interviews, Neil talks a great deal about the editing/sequencing of the tracks w/ Producer Lou Adler.

And if you listen very carefully, each song transition edits are on the same chord/key/note. Hence the flow between songs sounds seamless. No hiccups, weirdness whatsoever. The edits are so subtle as to be transparent.

Indeed, saying  Neil Young is a “conceptual thinker” is quite the understatement. 

More on the profoundly ground breaking Neil Young @ Thanks To Neil Young For Still Being Gloriously Weird.

Neil Young @ Zuma Beach 
(Click photo to enlarge)

More on Neil Young's new album Before And After:

"Before And After" by Neil Young    

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At 12/18/2023 03:54:00 PM, Blogger Kevin D. said...

Good article and thoughts on B&A - I found the the idea of "Conceptual Thinker" an interesting one that definitely fits this album.

I brought the clear vinyl LP a few days ago as I wanted the dust to settle after the recent events out in Atascadero CA. the other week and have been listening to it repeatedly over this last weekend. The first thing that struck me was how the segues into each song really works and keeps the mood (concept?) of the album throughout the run time. I applaud Neil's vision here and I know I would not of thought of one continuous piece if I was making the record. I also found myself patting myself on the back investing in the LP rather than the CD or Blue Ray. As much as the pressing is perfect with no noticeable warps or noise or otherwise imperfections, the fact that by its very nature I need to flip the record over for me at least provides a great breathing space in which to enjoy Side 1 vs Side 2. The break lets the previous listen really sink in before we are off again with another 20 or so minutes of classic Neil.

So I raise my hat to Mr. Young for yet another classic and applaud his "Conceptual Thinking".

Kevin D. in Morro Bay

At 12/26/2023 12:07:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

The CD is partitioned track by track, after all, so it can be rearranged if so desired. The new Dylan album “Shadow Kingdom” is the same. It sounds better to rip them with no space in between of course. They are both great albums.

I am “Over the Moon” to have a new version of the first track, which I have said enough about already. But who could have predicted he would revisit that track with a 12 string guitar?! It’s like getting 2 versions of a classic painting by the Artist!

I like the feel of the new album & the song choices. His voice has aged a bit which makes me think of the many great albums Johnny Cash did for American Records in his last 10 years or so. Neil Young has still got plenty to say, and. Voice to sing it well.

If You Got Love has tons of soul compared to the bootleg of the studio original. The original which never came out yet is heavy on the synth and short on soul. Neil may have had the same opinion.

When I Hold You In My Arms is gorgeous, as it was on AYP. The line “If I only had a heart” is puzzling. But I have seen Neil very pissed off at soundcheck and there might have been a local sound guy asking himself about that very thing. See Mountaintop for more data on that. Not saying Neil is a meanie. How could you accomplish what Neil Young has created without being pretty damn serious? He may have hurt some feelings along the way. Whatever it took, it took. As I hold the audio treasure in my hands and cherish the listening, I suggest the end justifies the means. It has been a hell of a good ride so far. Long May You Run!

The album is not acoustic because Neil plays electric during “When I Hold You In My Arms” but it is mostly acoustic, no need to split hairs. We got what we wanted: Coastal we can hear again and again.

Mr Soul is more haunting here than ever before, I feel. More so than on MTV Unplugged, way more than the original version.

Before And After is a very satisfying album. One mainstream reviewer said people would listen 2 or 3 times and then leave it on the shelf. He doesn’t know is very well!

The format is unique in the Neil Young catalog. I don’t mind the songs running into each other. Perhaps the entire album was recorded in the studio. Or some tracks could be from the live shows from the tour. Either way, it’s all good.

Oh, I am sending Thrasher some crazy AI images that someone created by requesting “Neil Young riding a Llama in Peru!”

Your brother Alan in Seattle


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