Friday, July 22, 2011

Neil Young and the International Harvesters - A Treasure (Reprise, 2011)

Rock and roll legend Neil Young was a bit of a journeyman in the 1980’s, investigating several forms of music from proto-techno to sad-eyed balladry. This previously unreleased live album from 1985 with a group he called The International Harvesters was one of his most successful groups of the period. Country music had always played a part in Young’s music from his early days in Buffalo Springfield through country tinged folk projects like Comes a Time. This album shows his most overt embrace of country music, but his roots in rock ‘n’ roll and folk music are never far away. Adding instruments like steel guitar and fiddle countrify the proceedings, and Young lets his voice go to a nasaly everyman twang. Embracing the core values of the working man is one of the themes of this album, with songs like “Motor City” proclaiming the value of American built autos and the vapid ballad “Nothing Is Perfect” extolling the virtues of family life. But he never forgot how to rock as seen by the excellent set ender, “Grey Riders” which sounds like Young and Crazy Horse at full throttle. “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong,” a relic from his Springfield days (they’re touring again, you know) is a fine melancholy inclusion as are the two fine album openers, country rockers “Amber Jean” and “Are You Ready For the Country.” This is a fine document of a fascinating detour from a musician who refuses to rest on his laurels. It works more often than not and may surprise some of the detractors of Young’s digressions in the 1980’s. A Treasure -

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