Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Neil Young 22: Eldorado and Freedom

With a lot of activity over the past few years, Neil was certainly keeping busy, and soon enough there was word of yet another brand new album, to be called Eldorado. The only thing that surfaced was a five-song EP with that title, released only on CD in Japan; it would not receive wider release for another 33 years.
Credited cheekily to Neil Young & The Restless—the latter being the rhythm section from the Bluenotes—it’s a brief snapshot of a mostly loud session that rocks harder than anything on the recent CSNY album. Two of the songs have since appeared nowhere else: “Cocaine Eyes” starts with serious amp buzzing and continues with a Horsey riff and a melody he’d put to better use in a few months, while “Heavy Love” has a similar spirit but a better chorus. Both are incredibly abrasive, but frankly, neither song truly thrills.

The other three songs got more attention when the full album did finally arrive. Freedom was compiled from several sessions, with rotating players, and as satisfying as a well-rounded meal. There’s something on here for Neil-heads from all walks of life to enjoy.
“Rockin’ In The Free World” appears first in a live acoustic setting; in those days he’d play it twice in the same show. It’s still a good song, if overplayed by now. “Crime In The City” has some great verses; the original as done with the Bluenotes apparently had about ten more. Edited slightly from the EP, “Don’t Cry” has a really bent attitude through it, with lots of pyrotechnics, plus the explosion at the end is priceless. It stands out much better here than in between the two abandoned songs on Eldorado. “Hangin’ On A Limb” is a nice surprise, and a really sweet vocal from Linda Ronstadt that doesn’t get in the way. “Eldorado” is the same track from the EP, with excellent use of Mexican melodies and a mysterious tale about something. “The Ways Of Love” is another pleasant country charmer, left over from the late ‘70s.
“Someday” has contemporary keyboards and Bluenote horns, but still a good tune. Also on the EP, “On Broadway” really and truly is a cover of the Drifters classic. It seems like a very odd choice for Neil, whose covers tend to be more esoteric, but he uses the song to turn the hope of stardom into the pointlessness of crack addiction in no time. “Wrecking Ball” quotes from “Like A Hurricane”, and is a nice respite from all the despair that permeates the rest of the album. It’s very pretty. “No More” is a vast improvement on “Night Song” on the CSNY album, using that D modal tuning and absolutely sweating with determination not to fall prey to weakness. Powerful. “Too Far Gone” is another late ‘70s leftover honky-tonk lament, then the electric “Rockin’ In The Free World” slams it all shut in best Tonight’s The Night/Rust Never Sleeps tradition.
1989 saw a lot of established artists—McCartney, Dylan, the Stones, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello—return to form somewhat after pissing away most of the decade. Despite the quieter love songs, Freedom is a really angry album that managed to capture a lot of attention. Rather than beating a different genre to death with each album, Neil put them all together in one package, and got a hit out of it. There’s still a little “sheen” in the mix, but not enough to ruin it today.

Neil Young & The Restless Eldorado (1989)—
Neil Young
Freedom (1989)—

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