Neil Young is an important artist, and I have to emphasise the word artist. His music will surely not appeal to everyone, but everyone does know at least a handful of his songs.
Through a staggering 41 studio albums (not including his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or Buffalo Springfield) Young has carved out a stellar career. I guess sometimes he can come across as a bit “old man yells at cloud”, but don’t let that take away from his important body of work.
Along with his on again, off again band Crazy Horse, Young is the godfather of grunge, with their fuzzy and distorted sounds on albums such as Rust Never Sleeps and Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, influencing much of the early 90’s grunge rock that came our way. Young even released the excellent Mirror Ball album in 1995, where Pearl Jam featured as his backing band.
Young and Crazy Horse have reconvened for Colorado, their first album together since 2012’s Psychedelic Pill, and the results are stunning. Environmental issues are at the centre of this record, and the theme carries right through.
A harmonica blast ushers in the opening track, Think of Me. As expected, it’s a laid back number, bolstered by the tight drum beats of Ralph Molina, the understated guitars from Young and Nils Lofgren, and the bass from Billy Talbot that hovers beneath the surface. Of course there are also the very distinctive signature vocals of Young.
She Showed Me Love introduces a little of the fuzz and distortion that makes a Crazy Horse record a Crazy Horse record. It’s an ode to Mother Nature, and one that runs for over thirteen minutes in length at that. It’s very well put together, but it does wind up becoming a little repetitive, with “she showed me love” repeated over and over…
Olden Days sees Young push his vocals to a higher register at times. This is a much more “to the point” kind of song, with Young singing about people fading away, and remaining in his heart. Help Me Lose My Mind is a bit different, with Young approaching his vocal delivery in an almost spoken word style. The band is as tight and reliable as always.
Green is Blue is gentle and emotive, with Young singing about environmental issues. Never one to shy away from sharing his views, he gets his point across eloquently and intelligently, and whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect him.
Shut it Down is a very cool song. Young is once again speaking more than singing, but the backing vocal of “got to shut the whole system down” is key to this track working. It’s a highlight for me.
Milky Way showcases an aged and weathered quality to Youngs voice, he is 73 years old after all, but still fully capable of creating great music. Eternity shuffles along, while Rainbows of Colours looks at acceptance of LGBTQ, with lyrics like “there’s a rainbow of colours, in the old USA, and no ones gonna whitewash, those colours away”, the point is clear.
Closing out the album is I Do, and this is another soft and gentle song, that sees Young singing about clear waters, birds, fish, flowers and bees, and I guess questioning what happens when those things are no longer there.
Yes, it is an album with environmental issues at its core, but it’s not preachy at all, and most importantly, it’s great music from an iconic artist.