Monday, November 10, 2008

Neil Young 15: Hawks & Doves

Neil finished the seventies on top. Then this happened. Hawks & Doves tries to do the same acoustic/electric flip-flop as Rust Never Sleeps, but instead doubles the mix/country pairing of American Stars ‘N Bars, though not as well.
It starts out promisingly enough. Side one has some castoffs from the mid-’70s thrown together in a way that fits. “Little Wing” is not the Hendrix tune, but a pretty and light two-chord trifle. “The Old Homestead” is a spooky saga, also from the Homegrown era. (It’s even got a guy playing a saw!) While “Thrasher” was supposedly about CSNY, this has a character asking why he rides “that crazy horse”. Great lyrics, scary accompaniment, very cool. “Lost In Space” is a cute little experiment, with a non-linear structure, impenetrable words and a Munchkin chorus. “Captain Kennedy” is yet another Chrome Dreams leftover, very reminiscent of “New Mama” (from Tonight’s The Night) but somewhat less personal.
That’s a nice enough start, but then we get the generic soundalike country on side two. “Stayin’ Power” is the best, but it’s all downhill from here. “Union Man” is funny the first time through but never again, and the flag-waving of the title track would turn up again in his Farm Aid phase.
Even with the crazy solo experiments of the first side, the sum of Hawks & Doves equals less than the parts. And it’s only half an hour long in total to boot. Pointedly, it was out of print for several years—as one of the infamous “Missing 6”—before finally arriving on CD in 2003, overshadowed by On The Beach.

Neil Young Hawks & Doves (1980)—

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