NAME: Neil Young and Crazy Horse
DATE: 4th June 2012
FIVE WORD REVIEW: Dusky, gritty, but unfortunately bland.
REVIEW: Neil Young’s 34th studio album, which in itself is a tremendous feat, is sadly a miss. Definitely not his worst release – if you count ‘Old Ways’ – yet it is nowhere near the importance and grandeur of say ‘After the Gold Rush’ or ‘Harvest Moon’.
‘Americana’, somewhat obviously, is a motley collection of American folk classics, like ‘Jesus’ Chariot’, better known as ‘She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain’. These songs have been around so long, and covered so many times, that they seem to have an almost childhood nursery rhyme aspect to them. However, Young – the line-up is completed by Billy Talbot (bass, vocals); Ralph Molina (drums); and Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro (guitar) – tears this away to leave tales of woe and hardship.
The album’s first track ‘Oh Susannah’ is a re-jigging of the classic, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite have the same effect. The rhythm seems off and pushing for something not there (‘B-A-N-J-O’). In another favourite, ‘Clementine’ we listen to a man wailing in anguish over his lost drowned love, whilst guitars jangle and larruping drums crash in an odd rhythm, which is again wholly unexpected. The best track on the album is ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, whose played down acoustic guitar gives it the country edge Young should’ve been going for throughout, rather than force classics into a vein of rock they weren’t meant for. These songs are all far too similar, the Crazy Horse manner of doing things, that of slowing down or speeding up so everything sounds the same does not work with this plethora of different genres and styles. There is no real difference in tempo that would have been had they just covered the songs as previously arranged. This could be construed as freshness, perhaps.
These new versions of old songs are an apparent attempt by Young to show that America’s conception and subsequent glory was not all easy capitalism and gold rush mentality, but formed from gruesome land grabs, genocide and insatiable greed.
While ‘Americana’ does allow listeners the chance to hear these songs as more than nursery rhyme and as part of America’s florid past, it somehow cashes in on it too; they are only covers after all and, alas, it seems transparent.
– By Peter Carr