Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II (Reprise, 2007)

One of music's great eccentrics, leave it to Neil Young to release a sequel to an album that was never actually released. The original Chrome Dreams LP was scheduled to roll off the assembly line in 1977, but was scrapped just before release. A few of the songs were cannibalized for other projects, and the remainder were re-recorded for release here. It's an interesting LP, hitting all of many of his favorite themes and styles in a typically idiosyncratic manner. There are some sweet country flavored ballads like "Beautiful Bluebird" and "Ever After," which will please fans of albums like Harvest and Prairie Wind, while the very lengthy electric workouts "Ordinary People" and "No Hidden Path" will please those looking for Young to plug in and rock out. The most interesting songs of the album fall in between those two poles. The haunting "Boxcar" is one of Young's most mysterious and beautiful ballads, focusing on the mysteries of railroads and hobo culture. "Dirty Old Man" does a one hundred and eighty degree turn from that, being a great give-em-the-finger song, a snarling rocker in the tradition of "Welfare Mothers" and "Piece of Crap." So there's a lot of variety on this album, with something to please almost anyone. One of the more interesting aspects of the songwriting on the album is the repeated references to spirituality. One might think that this might be Young's reaction to aging, except that most of these songs were written some time ago. The only thing that holds this album back from being a Young classic is the scatter-shot nature of the material. Despite several good songs, the album never coheres as a whole, and the two epics seem just a little too wordy. Just another piece of the fascinating puzzle that is Neil Young.

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