Friday, November 07, 2003

Neil Young – Greendale (Reprise, 2003)

A lot of people are ready to toss ole Neil in the rock & roll scrapheap after a series of “mediocre” albums of the late '90’s and early ‘00’s (listen again, those albums may have been a little inconsistent, but were hardly failures) and now comes something sure to annoy – a full length retro-60’s concept album covering such topics as peace and love, redemption and ecology. Needless to say, the reviews have been mixed at best.

Which is a shame because it’s a great disc; probably Young’s finest since Sleeps With Angels. Yep, it’s a hippie concept album too, about a fictional town in northern California called Greendale where Grandpa hasn’t watched TV since Leave it to Beaver was on, Grandma’s preaches about “a little love and affection,” Sun Green wants to break away from her parents and Jed just shot a cop in a drug deal gone wrong. The story creaks and groans but it provides fodder for some great songs.

Back with Crazy Horse, the music is mostly a loping, sometimes sloppy groove that they’ve put together over the years. It lacks some of the urgency of Ragged Glory and Weld, falling more toward the lumbering extended jams of Broken Arrow. Many of the tracks clock in at 8 or nine minutes, and Young solos at length on many of them.

Young’s lyrics are a sharp as ever, taking on grief and anguish in the poignant “Carmichael” and attacking corrupt government officials, their corporate bedfellows and polluters in “Sun Green” and “Be the Rain.” Say what you will about the soap-operaish idea behind the story, it’s lit a fire under Neil to write some of his finest recent songs.

Rating: 9

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