Friday, January 30, 2009

Neil Young 20: Life

Coming off the Crazy Horse tour supporting Landing On Water, Life had a lot more going for it, even if the public ignored it. Its luster has lessened since then, plus the keyboards suffer from that old enemy, “contemporary sheen”. (Mostly recorded live, a ton of post-production work added to fit the boominess.)
“Mideast Vacation” was unique for 1987, as it seemingly indicted U.S. foreign policy at a time when the entire Reagan administration was being canonized. “Long Walk Home” kept with the same theme, and sounded just enough like “After The Gold Rush” to get airplay. Cool gun effects too. “Around The World” goes through a lot of changes, not all connected, but still not bad. (The “Hey! Yer lookin’ beautiful!” section is still a scream.) “Inca Queen” takes us back to the Native American country of Pocahontas and Cortez in a D modal tuning with fake horn keyboards, and is gorgeous.
At first listen, side two is all barroom songs—an idea ten years past its time. “Too Lonely” and “Cryin’ Eyes” (also ten years old) are two versions of the same song, but “Prisoners Of Rock ‘N Roll” is perhaps his only “statement of purpose” that deserves to be in the official oeuvre. “When Your Lonely Heart Breaks” slows things down in a big way and is emotionally effective, with an expressive solo that hints at his next direction. “We Never Danced” ends it all unsettlingly. Made all the more poignant by its key role in the film Made In Heaven, the album ends on a quiet, unresolved chord.
Time has taken away some of the excitement, but considering the rest of the crap he’d put out of late, Life was his first decent album in eight years, and it had Crazy Horse. Things were definitely looking up. (As for the title and cover, you can just barely see the jailhouse symbol for five scratched on the cell wall. This was his fifth album for his current label.)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Life (1987)—3

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