Friday, November 1, 2019

Neil Young 58: Colorado

For half a century, the connotation of Neil Young playing with Crazy Horse inspires the immediate aural image of a plodding electric assault, and with lots of evidence to support that. But the fuzz of “Like A Hurricane”, Ragged Glory, and Psychedelic Pill belies the lower dynamics that Neil has brought out of the guys, such as “Lotta Love”, “Running Dry”, “Oh Lonesome Me”, and countless other tunes with Billy Talbot on bass and/or Ralph Molina on drums. Take also Tonight’s The Night, recorded with that rhythm section and trading guitar and piano duties with Nils Lofgren, who was in Crazy Horse for their debut Neil-less album.
Now that Poncho Sampedro is semi-retired, Nils came back to support Neil and the other two for a few shows, which led to an album. Colorado was recorded in that state, with oxygen tanks on hand to help them adjust to the higher climate, and while many of Neil’s recent quirks are still in place—harangues about the same political issue in consecutive tracks, singing far above his range, yelling tunelessly when he hasn’t bothered to write a melody, as he does on most of the loud ones—the album holds together better than any of the last handful, simply because it offers variety and repels assumptions.
With a blast of harmonica, “Think Of Me” is a jaunty acoustic strum that sounds more like Prairie Wind than Crazy Horse until the harmonies kick in. This promising start is followed by the sludge of “She Showed Me Love”, which ponders the fate of Mother Nature in the hands of “old white guys” and “young folks”. It’s long enough to begin with, but then plods away for another seven minutes of jamming and repeats of the title on top of the six it took to get there. As the only lengthy track on the album, it seems odd that this was the one groove given such an honor.
That’s basically the template for the album: softer songs alternating with loud ones. “Olden Days”, about losing touch with friends for various reasons, sports a nice little riff echoed by the voice and piano (uncredited, though it’s probably Nils), but it seems to be over awfully quickly. Then it’s back to doom, as “Help Me Lose My Mind” alternates an agitated verse with a more inspired chorus change (musically, anyway). The sad little metaphor of “Green Is Blue” is effective, and in case you missed the point, “Shut It Down” pounds it into your head. “Milky Way” was the first track streamed to the public, and while its first-take demo quality underwhelmed then, it works much better in this context. Plus, with its tension being more quiet than loud, it provides welcome contrast.
The charming “Eternity” not only revives earlier lyric ideas, such as a house of love and a train of love, but it also features the tapdancing skills of Nils Lofgren (“click, clack, clickety clack” indeed). Set to a tune we can’t put our finger on, “Rainbow Of Colors” is another attempt at an alternate national anthem, in that it offers a positive message instead of just saying why the other side is wrong. One might think the album would end there, but “I Do” is a tender love song that takes us out very gently, along the lines of “Music Arcade” and “Without Rings”. (Those who bought the vinyl—or paid the subscription—got a bonus in the form of the moody but moving “Truth Kills”, plus a live solo electric “Rainbow Of Colors”.)
Many of Neil’s albums this century have been difficult to absorb; part of that can be ascribed to the loss of producer David Briggs in 1995. Now the death of longtime manager Elliot Roberts, to whom Colorado is dedicated, will likely affect Neil in ways he can’t fathom. We predict this album will have staying power, and those who say it’s not a Crazy Horse album need to revisit Sleeps With Angels.

Neil Young With Crazy Horse Colorado (2019)—3

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Wardo! Posted on TW @ http://neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org/2019/11/meta-review-colorado-by-neil-young.html

    So what do you think of “I Do”? Some say this is about Daryl? Some say Crazy Horse?

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    1. I don't think it's about any one topic. Daryl, Crazy Horse, us fans, the Great Spirit, all seem to be covered.

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  2. Great review! (This is Sudsman, BTW) :)

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