Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Record label: Reprise
For Neil Young, the Sixties never ended. The music, memories and changes haunt his best songs and records like bittersweet perfume: vital, endlessly renewing inspirations that are also constant, enraging reminders of promises broken and ideals betrayed. In "Twisted Road," one of eight new songs sprawled across this turbulent two-CD set, Young recalls, in a brilliantly mixed metaphor, the first time he heard Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone": "Poetry rolling offhis tongue/Like Hank Williams chewing bubble gum." And Young tells you what he did with the impact.
Review Summary: The best medicineThis June’s Americana, the drunken-sing-along reunion with Crazy Horse with its sense of distorted nostalgia, didn’t purport to offer any idea as to where a rejuvenated Young wanted to go. The trad folk songs given a typically raucous and occasionally abrasive touch up by some of rock’s great survivors were enough to tide people over. Although it was a nice little curio, many saw it as a play for time before Young made with the original sounds.
It had all of the elements of a perfect storm. Review copies of Waging Heavy Peace Neil Young’s long awaited autobiography and Psychedelic Pill, the first real Crazy Horse recording in nearly a decade (if you don’t count the very likeable Americana which amounted to little more than a warm-up disc of songs that Young used to play with his teenage band in Winnipeg) dropped into my mailbox on the same morning. I’d spent the week before that cleaning the yard and pruning trees while listening through all five DVDs of Young’s Archives box set in anticipation of these arrivals, so it’s safe to say that I was saturated and moving through my days in heavy Neil Young territory.
Freer spirits and passed heroes nobly fill up Young’s head space on “She’s Always Dancing” and “Twisted Road,” while “Born in Ontario” (disc one’s closing track) acts as the countrified wrap up to all of Psychedelic Pill’s headaches and heart swells. “Once in a while, when things go wrong/I pick up a pen, scribble on a page/Try to make sense of my inner rage,” moans Young, considering his roots and wrongs and calming his inner, savage beasts. As always.
Laziness is the last thing you could accuse Neil Young of. Having reunited with Crazy Horse for June’s ‘Americana’ album, the veteran Canadian singer-songwriter now presents his second album of 2012, and it’s a whopper. ‘Psychedelic Pill’ weighs in as follows: nine tracks, a running time of 88 minutes, and a 28-minute opener titled ‘Driftin’ Back’.
Shakey's first album of original songs with the Horse since 1996 wears their trademark sound like an old slipper – beautiful harmonies, plaintive chord changes and chugging country-rock rhythms that allow Young's improvised guitar solos room to roam. And roam he does – for 87 minutes, many of them looking back over a remarkable life with wistfulness and humour. The meandering but sublime 27-minute opener Driftin' Back depicts him as country rock's Victor Meldrew, grumbling wonderfully about the sound quality on MP3s and threatening to "get a hip-hop haircut" – a promise he must be held to.
Even by his own high standards, 2012 has been a busy year for Neil Young. Creating his third documentary collaboration with filmmaker Jonathan Demme, the veteran songwriter has also found the time to write his memoirs and release two albums with long-term backing band Crazy Horse. The first album, Americana, a collection of American standards covered in The Horse’s inimitable style, was something of a tease from the ever contrary Young, constricting the band’s ragged, expansive sound behind the likes of ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain’ and never really taking off as they have done so heroically in the past.
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE play the Air Canada Centre November 19. See listing. Rating: NNNN Between his ill-advised covers album, Americana, in June and the recent train wreck of a memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, we were starting to lose faith in Neil Young. But if there's one thing you can count on him for, it's unpredictability.
Psychedelic Pill, the first album of original material from Neil Young and Crazy Horse in nearly a decade, comes on like a flashback. The double album is old man Young's trip down memory lane (or “Twisted Road,” as he puts it), its gestures of protest mainly a mode of confronting the passage of time. It's longwinded, taxing, and crunchily dissonant, bereft of even the token acoustic gem—not an album to be tinkered with by anyone who isn't already firmly in the Crazy Horse saddle.
As it turns out, the lumbering Americana was merely an amateurish rehearsal for the reuniting Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Just a handful of months after that collection of schoolhouse folk tunes, the band released the mammoth Psychedelic Pill, Neil's first-ever studio double-LP. It's not just the album itself that sprawls: Young rides Crazy Horse through long, long songs, kicking off the proceedings with the 27-minute "Driftin' Back," a song that makes the nearly 17-minute "Ramada Inn" and 16:30 "Walk Like a Giant" look comparatively svelte.
Psychedelic Pill is Neil Young’s 35th studio album and his second this year with longtime collaborators Crazy Horse. That bears repeating, if for no other reason than even casual listeners of the legend’s corpus know several of his records by heart. The sonic territory on Young’s latest is perhaps a bit too expansive to be considered iconic or essential, but it proves that the 66-year-old rocker shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The signature Crazy Horse move is The Huddle. No matter how big the stage, Neil Young, Billy Talbot, and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro will inevitably find themselves tightly packed in front of Ralph Molina's drums, bobbing and flailing in such close proximity that it's a miracle they never crack guitar necks. It's an aggressively insular move for a band playing to thousands, an unambiguous signal that the feedback storm they are conjuring is often more about them than us.
Like a mustang on the loose, it’s been difficult to contain Neil Young and Crazy Horse in the past year. Earlier in 2012, they released Americana, in which they put their own electric spin on classic folk songs and spirituals. Now they’re really running wild with Psychedelic Pill, an unhinged, jam-filled set that stretches over two discs even with only eight songs included.
There's a level of trepidation that accompanies every new Neil Young release lately, as if we who revere him now perceive him as a relative we're being forced to care for in their old age. The sad truth is that, while Young remains as electrifying as ever on stage, especially with Crazy Horse, the quality of his songwriting has been in steep decline since the mid-'90s. Albums like Are You Passionate?, Living With War, Fork in the Road and even 2010's Daniel Lanois collaboration, Le Noise, are forgotten almost as soon as they're released, written off not unlike the ramblings of Clint Eastwood addressing an empty chair.
"The way she dances makes my world stand still," warbles Neil Young on Psychedelic Pill, the title track of his 35th studio album, a record that languorously noodles its way into the record books as his longest. If an hour and a half of Neil time sounds like a lot of guitar solos – well, yes, it is. "Every move is like a psychedelic pill/ From a doctor I can't find," Young continues, as a riff grinds on.
The opening minutes of Psychedelic Pill, the second of two albums Neil Young has released this year with Crazy Horse after their near decade-long absence, find the band in rediscovery. It’s a fine joke, a testament to the singer’s unwillingness to conform to expectation, that Young begins his much-anticipated record of Crazy Horse originals with an acoustic guitar. “I’m driftin’ back,” Young sings in a woozy haze, as if he’s about to enter a dream.
Another great album from Young and his rawest of backing bands. David Quantick 2012 Rock legends aren’t supposed to crank out albums like emergency sausages during a picnic glut. They’re meant to be enigmatic and irregular, like Kate Bush, or Bob Dylan. But in fact, those two acts have released more albums in recent years than Coldplay and U2, who cautiously drop a record every few years like they’re trying to hold their talent in.
NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE. “Psychedelic Pill”.
The act of looking back has not always come easily to Neil Young. At 66, he’s among the most prolific and probing artists of his generation, recording and releasing material at a brisk clip with songwriting concerns just as urgent. This year, however, Young has locked his gaze on the rearview mirror, most notably with a memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace” published last month.
"You've been such a great crowd standing out here in the pouring rain so we're gonna play some more for you!" The scene is a sodden and muddy Finsbury Park, August 2001 and Neil Young And Crazy Horse have elected to break the imposed curfew and are cranking up a searing wave of feedback and howling guitars before launching into a devastating 17 minute reading of 'Like A Hurricane'. With Crazy Horse providing a solid and ear-bleeding rhythmic wall of sound, it isn't too long before Young lets rip with the first of a series of hypnotic lead breaks on his trusty Black Beauty before finally bringing the song to a screaming and aching end. It's probably this writer's favourite memory of seeing these trusty stalwarts in action and the set has gone on to rest comfortably in the band's enduring lore.