Neil Young: One Piece At A Time
23rd March 2018
Title: The Visitor
Label: Warner Bros
I’ve noticed a growing or – depending where you look – a continuing trend when reading press reviews of Neil Young’s more recently outings. They appear to have an underlying sense of the weary and wary. Ratings out of five stars tend to hit around three. Scores out of 10 tend to hit six or seven. There’s a general review stance that says, “Young’s released yet another record…” Some are more direct, “Another one already? Seems like it was only five minutes ago that…” Some tick off a list, “Young’s rant, this time, is aimed at…” Most tend to review by rota, as if they’ve run out of things to say. Typing enough about the music and quoting a few lyrics to ‘get by’. As time moves on, there’s a sense that Young is being handled like a faintly bemused grandfather, who is patronised as he’s losing his mind.
“Yes Neil, it’s v-e-r-y n-i-c-e. Would you like a cup of tea? I said a CUP OF TEA!” And so on.
There are some artists who have done the ‘star’ bit. That’s been and gone. Fame’s novelty has tarnished a long time ago. The point of it all now is not even to sell records. Not really. The money is useful to further future projects but the point is to get opinions out there. The message is all. It’s the Orson Welles approach to music making. To have an effect is nice too. Even a small effect. To make a difference (read the lyrics of Forever on this LP for confirmation). Such artists tend to be of the prolific mind. Their art flows freely. Prince was one of those artists. He produced far more albums than his record label, Warners (there’s an irony, eh?) were prepared, at that time, to release. Prince decided to strike in an effort to be allowed to do that very thing. Prince was a pioneer of artistic freedoms.
Young’s prolific output, like Prince, is also humungous. He also has a lot to say. He is also awash with opinion. His art also bubbles from within and yearns to get out there.
In effect, this new album, backed by Promise of the Real (Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah’s own band) is one more piece of the jigsaw. Another part of the single picture. Who is Neil Young? Look at the rapidly growing LP collection to find out.
It’s a three-sided album, pressed into a gatefold (the fourth side presents a quickly formed etching).
This incredibly wordy album sees Young worried and insistent. He’s worried about the planet, he really wants you to be independent of thought and spirit, he’s contemplating his past and worried about the present and scared out of his wits about the political present and the ecological future. It’s the fate of the ageing. People who develop their wisdom realise that their powers are limited and they need to shout loud and a lot. Even if it is in frustration only. Then they hope someone will listen. Someone. Anyone. That’s where Neil Young is at the moment. So don’t review his albums, hear the continuing messages, meditate on the message and go with the flow. Review the message (which is real and relevant and vital).
In fact, think of Neil’s frequently released albums as the next episode in his own series of TED talks.
For audiophile’s out there, the audio message flows extra easily. Noise is minimised, as is too much compression, the music is nicely balanced, the soundstage features a welcome 3D element and everything is right with the mastering world. If only planet Earth could be EQd in the same way, eh Neil?
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