Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Neil Young 9: Zuma

Having emerged from the darkness that had dominated his last albums, Neil felt rejuvenated when the Crazy Horse rhythm section hooked up with a guitar player named Frank Sampedro. He moved the revived band into a house and rolled tape. The quick result was an incredibly satisfying, underrated gem.

Zuma is a straightforward Crazy Horse album without any real agenda, which is fine. “Don’t Cry No Tears” is a strong opener, with a real pop-friendly arrangement. This was already ten years old when it was released, left over from the old folkie days. “Danger Bird” rumbles quietly in, slow as hell. While other slow songs can be dull, Neil’s best always hold your attention. This one juxtaposes an impenetrable lyric about a prehistoric bird with some rather pointed stanzas about a relationship gone bad (if you listen closely enough on those choruses). “Pardon My Heart” is a nice rumination on what love can do to and for somebody, followed by the sweet hope in “Lookin’ For A Love”. “Barstool Blues” closes this perfect album side, all simplicity with a stretched range.

“Stupid Girl” could have been a lot funnier and much nastier (at least in comparison to the Rolling Stones song of the same name), though it’s tough to get much worse than “you’re really stupid, girl”. “Drive Back” hits with all the subtlety of an alarm clock. This is the macho upside to the hurt elsewhere on the album. “Cortez The Killer” is the first of a long line of songs related to the ordeal of South American Indians over the centuries. While the three chords don’t go anywhere, he lets the words travel time. “Through My Sails” ends the album quietly. This may well be left over from an aborted CSNY project, as evidenced by the harmonies and boat imagery.

While he’s hardly smiling here, Zuma is by far a lot sunnier than his last several albums. It’s as bare-bones as the simple line drawings on the cover, and does the job nicely. It leaves the listener hoping that the demons that had colored his so-called dark period were long gone. But in the meantime, it’s worth several repeat listenings.

Neil Young Zuma (1975)—4

1 comment:

  1. cortez has held up as one of the all time great Neil Young tunes - also covered by some great artists with some great versions. Do not miss The Church's cover of this song - it is truly mind-blowing!