Neil Young - Americana
Neil reunites with Crazy Horse for the first time in ages to produce an album of old songs, quirky songs and folk songs. You can call this a warm-up set for an album of new songs, but that would be a disservice. You can call this a marking time release, or simply one of the most straightforward Neil Young releases for a good while, but neither assertion would be entirely correct. No matter what the source material, Neil and Crazy Horse put it through their own fuzzy and loose noise filters, and out pops nearly entirely enjoyable listening as a result. What really gets me is how fresh and new they manage to make even the most recognizable material sound, take 'God Saves The Queen', not a Sex Pistols cover, rather the British national anthem. I probably hear it every week in some fashion or another, and dreaded hearing a Neil Young take on this, surely it doesn't matter what he does with it, it's still not going to sound anything other than horrid? Well, almost, but he sings verses even us Brits not know, we rarely get to hear the full thing, after all, and treats it as a militaristic marching band song, leavened by female backing vocals here and there. At the other end of the record, aged song 'Oh Susannah' is also given the full Crazy Horse treatment, treating a listener to just over five minutes of what ends up coming across as pure Neil Young, whatever the original of the material. Darkness abounds during 'Clementine', for all the world like it could have come straight off the 'Rust Never Sleeps' tour. 'Tom Dula' reminds me of around twenty Neil Young songs all at once, all from before 1980, I must add. As such, and this tune runs to eight minutes, it becomes an album highlight - it's full of clashing cymbals, enjoyable shouted 'Tom Dula' parts and 'ooooohhhhh' vocal harmonies. Good to hear also that Neil can still play guitar as well as he ever could, it seems. Well, he has a style, you know the style, you know how it sounds - some say Neil Young and Crazy Horse invented grunge, and that grunge is dead but it's clear nobody told Neil.
'Gallows Pole' is entertaining despite the subject, Neil and band take this with a jaunty steps and swinging beats! 'Get A Job' follows with Crazy Horse doing doo-wop, a song this listener knows more from listening to Beach Boys related music that Neil Young related music - view it as a fun diversion. 'Travel On' is melodic and bouncy, a good road song and 'High Flyin Bird' could have come from the pen of Neil Young whilst he was still in Buffalo Springfield - 'Lord I'm gonna die' he sings, as the guitars swirl away. 'Jesus Chariot' is better known to me as 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain' and is worthy purely for the 'When She Comes!' chants in the background. The ever-lasting Woody Guthrie favourite, which it seems every American with a guitar has done a version of, is sent through the Canadian Neil Young filter, and it comes out okay. Not much you can do with such a song really is there, unless you wanted to be controversial and do a Drum 'n' Bass version. That's about it, may as well mention 'Wayfarin' Stranger' as I've mentioned everything else. It's acoustic, and Neil is fine voice, and straight and that's it. Anyway, 'Americana' is better than it has any right to be, most artists tackling such material put in dour, overly serious and overly respectful versions - Neil Young And Crazy Horse are just having fun, and fun is in short supply these days, so congratulations to all involved in this albums creation, really.
Oh Susannah / Clementine / Tom Dula / Gallows Pole / Get A Job / Travel On / High Flyin' Bird / Jesus' Chariot / This Land Is Your Land / Wayfarin' Stranger / God Save The Queen