For most of his career, and certainly since he started having health problems, Neil has been determined to do what he wants, when he wants, whenever a mood takes control. He sees his albums as part of one long story, so he’s more concerned with the moment than the future, which he’ll figure out when he gets there.
That’s why, amidst much of the anticipation over the unveiling of his first volume of Archives, he hurriedly recorded and released Fork In The Road, most of which seemed to be an advertisement for his biofuel hybrid electric car company.
Actually, that’s not a fair assessment. Of the album’s ten songs, only “Johnny Magic” and “Fuel Line” make references to the Linc-Volt project, but the theme runs through “When Worlds Collide”, “Get Behind The Wheel”, “Off The Road” and “Hit The Road”. With the Beach Boys a non-entity and Springsteen playing Pete Seeger music, maybe Neil decided he wanted to be the king of the car song.
A lot of the songs sound alike, so when he throws a few left turns into the mix, they stand out. “Cough Up The Bucks” threatens to be about as plodding as “T-Bone”, but redeems itself with decent guitar and verses colored by a Hammond B-3. He acknowledges the futility of protest songs on “Just Singing A Song”, and quietly sings of the same determination on “Light A Candle”.
Nothing really stands out as a classic, with the exception of the title track, which was previewed with a video that seemed to be filmed by a webcam depicting Neil as a grizzled old codger playing air guitar and plugging his iPod earbuds into an actual apple. Even with one chord, he manages to sound like he’s playing something new and different.
Fork In The Road is fairly brief and mostly loud, recorded with his latest touring band. It’s just an album, the latest chapter in his life, until he writes another.
Neil Young Fork In The Road (2009)—2½