Neil Young - Are You Passionate
Collaborating with Booker T & The MGs for this album kind of proves that Neil, even 36 odd albums into his career, always wants to try something different. So, we get a few R&B sounding rhythm tracks. With members of Crazy Horse in tow, we also get a few more typically grunge sounding Neil Young moments. So, Motown and soul characterises album opener 'You're My Girl', a mid-tempo five minute soul-pop song. Neil puts in one of his softer, more delicate vocals and whilst this isn't an instant pop wonder as many classic motown tunes were, repeated listenings do seep the tune into your, well, soul. So, in that respect, the song definitely works. 'Mr Disappointment' is another slow-burner, a five minute track with a low-growled Neil vocal contrasting with falsetto moments here and there and some understated yet lovely keening guitar lines. It's a nice tune. By the time of third song, 'Differently', attention startes to waiver, though. Another mid-tempo tune, slightly lacking in passion but not obviously so, that starts to make a listener question the album titles true meaning. When 'Don't Say You Love Me' arrives, the fourth five minute plus tune in a row and another slow burning, mid-tempo tune with impeccably played, yet dull backing, you'd be forgiven for turning your stereo off altogether. Putting on 'Zuma' or something for some real fiery and, dare I say it, passionate Neil performances. Still, music-wise this album is characterised by some lovely little piano lines, plenty of decent guitar lines and a solid rhythm section. Not enough fire, though, Neil. Not enough passion!
We have to wait until 'Let's Roll' to get a song that sounds like Neil just playing and recording live in the studio. Sadly, it's a song that goes absolutely nowhere. The albums title track is another slow to mid-tempo attempt at soul-blues and the album only picks up and achieves any kind of fiery, genuinely soulful passionate level once the Crazy Horse assisted gem that is 'Goin Home' arrives. Suddenly, we've feedback and thunder and a Neil vocal rising above it all. 'Be With You' also has a bit of energy to it and combines the motown feel of 'You're My Girl' with the more typical Neil Young rock n roll perhaps better than any other song here. However, as the blues ballad of 'Two Old Friends' bores to its close you'll not likely be left feeling that 'Are You Passionate' was a very succesful collaboration bourne out of mutual creative energy. The Booker T guys do their usual professional session muso job, Neil sounds anything but passionate, largely coasting through the album. One or three quality tunes abound, if abound is the correct word to use, but this is far from being an essential Young album.
You're My Girl / Mr Disappointment / Differently / Don't Say You Love Me / Let's Roll / Are You Passionate / Goin Home / When I Hold You In My Arms / Be With You / Two Old Friends