Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Americana

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
(Reprise Records)

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There are songs your mom sings to you when you’re growing up—songs like “Clementine” and “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” You generally forget about these songs by the time you’re old enough to turn the radio dial…unless, of course, you happen to be Neil Young.

Joined by his longtime backup band, Crazy Horse, Young has collected an album’s worth of these classic folksongs to release Americana. When asked about the strange song choices, Young said, “Almost every one has to do with people getting killed, with life-or-death struggles. You don’t hear much about that; they’ve been made into something much more light. So I moved them away from that gentler interpretation. With new melodies and arrangements, we could use the folk process to invoke the original meanings for this generation.”

In theory, it’s a good idea…but then again, so is communism.

This album just did not live up to the standards of a typical Neil Young album. Adding a distorted guitar part to any of these songs—which seems to be Young’s general formula to making a concept album—does not make them rock songs. It doesn’t even make them listenable; if anything, it just detracts from the simplistic way in which these songs were written, in order to complement the simple messages they convey.

Neil Young is an incredibly talented artist, and his creativity has been the driving force in every endeavor he’s launched himself in—Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, his solo projects, etc.—and that is probably what ended up hurting him in this circumstance. There’s only so much you can do with “This Land is Your Land” before listeners just get irritated.

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