dinsdag 7 februari 2017

Peace Trail. Neil Young

Surprised that Neil Young did not record with his latest live band Promise of the Real? Personally, not really, as Young hasn't lived up to expectations ever. Even despite the fact that Peace Trail is an album in the pace and mood of his 'Earth' tour of 2016. Of which the double live album 'Earth' (2016) gives a great impression. Although I did not review the album, I did listen to it a few times and was able to grab the feeling I had in the Ziggo Dome early last summer.

Peace Trail is a much more elementary album (and probably the reason why PotR is not here). Recorded how it was played, without months of practice. What there was, is what we hear, with some overdubs of guitars and vocals. Having said all that, the title song would have fitted his live outfit brilliantly, guitars everywhere, acoustic, electric and lead, with the archetype Neil Young dark guitar growls like thunder spouting from my speakers. Even after 50 years in the business, Neil Young is able to come up with a great song like 'Peace Trail'. The old organ that enters and leaves the song regularly, adds an eerie sound to the song. 'Peace Trail' is a song that can be written up with the great songs Neil Young wrote. It has that unique stamp that makes it recognisable from the masses instantly.

For most of this century I was hindered by Neil Young fatigue. Too much to keep up with and not adding to what I already had, 20 something albums, excluding the collaborations. Although I always at least listened to a new album and sometimes admitted to myself that this was not bad at all, I was not able to shake that fatigue. A horrible show with Crazy Horse, around the just as horrid 'Broken Arrow' album, pushed me away from the live Neil Young as well.

All this changed with the 'Monsanto' album (2015). Inspired, alive and strongly motivated. It even made me go to a live show again, which I absolutely thought was great. So now there is another studio album called Peace Trail.

You won't find me writing that Peace Trail is up with Neil Young's greatest achievements. That it isn't. Yet, again I feel that flame burning inside the senior citizen Young. A flame inspiring him to come up with the best he has to offer. This offer is more than good enough to listen to. Together with bass player Paul Bushnell, from Micah Nelson's solo band and old hand Jim Keltner on drums, Neil recorded an elementary album in just four days. It makes me wonder what the role of co-producer John Hanlon was, but then, who knows, as they have a professional relationship for over 30 years by now.

Neil Young basically does all he is good at over the bass-drums. Guitars are played, an organ or harmonica here and there. Together it builds into a moody album, sung with a voice that has aged, hitting a short of breath point in some places, but remains Neil Young above all. Love it or hate it. There seems to be no in between. A strange-rhythmed song like 'Texas Rangers' is back-to-back with some great Neil Young style Americana like the great 'Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders'. A song that makes Peace Trail so worth while to listen to. The distorted harmonica makes the song as harsh as the fear that terrorists invoke in people, as irrational that fear is in western democracies. It all ends with a new robot bought at Amazon.com. 'Trans' returns but with classic Neil Young underneath. And so the combination does work after all.

Peace Trail is a great addition to the Neil Young songbook. There's inspiration, some great songs and playing in one of the two ways I like him best. So leave out the 'Like A Hurricane' Neil and move in the Young that delivers songs in a mid-tempo balancing himself between country, blues and rock. It's all there on Peace Trail.


You can listen to 'Peace Trail' here:


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