Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Barn (Reprise): Album Review

Neil Young saddles up The Horse one more time for an album that sounds part solo/part band effort but, as always, pure Neil. It also happens to be his best work in a wee while.

Alrighty, let’s get the numbers out of the way: 52 years after their first album together, this is Neil’s 41 album of new material and 14th with Crazy Horse. Barn features 10 new songs recorded by four men in the 70s: Neil Young (76), Ralph Molina (78), Billy Talbot (78) and Nils Lofgren (70) (guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro (72) was put out to pasture a few years ago).

Let’s face it, Neil has always sounded like an ‘old man’, now his age has finally caught up with his voice which sounds the same as it always has.

Barn was recorded this past (North American) summer, ‘under a full moon, in a restored off-grid 19th century barn high up in the Rockies’, or so the PR tells us.

It sounds like it was put together quickly with the band playing live in the ‘barn’ as Daryl Hannah shot the video (a film on Blu-Ray is forthcoming).

It was only a couple of years ago that Neil and Crazy Horse released Colorado but that record seemed to slip by somewhat unnoticed. Fortunately, the songwriting on Barn is stronger, beginning with opening track, Song Of The Season. One would expect the Horse to come out charging with “Old Black” rattling the rafters. But that’s not what happens. Instead Song Of The Season is a tender, acoustic ballad with a melody very similar to another old Neil song, My Boy from 1985’s Old Ways. It is winsome, nostalgic and Neil’s harmonica will make the old hippies feel right at home.

Finally the Horse rears back on Heading West. The guitars are turned up but Neil is still wallowing in the past singing about those “good old days”.

Change Ain’t Never Gonna may be awkwardly titled but it feels good. Young addresses fuel burners and conspiracy theorists while the band sounds loose and live with a rollicking piano (by Nils?) playing off the guitar. Thumbs up here.

Canerican doesn’t quite work as well. The title, indicating Neil’s Canadian heritage and his American home is kinda cringe-inducing as he sings, “I am American, American is what I am”. OK.

Much better are the following five tracks.

Shape Of You has more of that rollicking piano while They Might Be Lost is classic solo-style Neil singin’ again about the old days.

Crazy Horse finally rears back and rocks on Human Race…clocking in at just over 4 minutes, it would be better at twice the duration.

Tumblin’ Thru The Years is a lighter love song that sets us up for the album’s finest track, Welcome Back. The slow, sludgy guitar immediately recalls Cortez The Killer and Neil knows it… “Gonna sing an old song to you right now, one that you’ve heard…I’ve been singing this way for so long”, he warbles. But, “It’s not the same”, he whispers.

Neil and the boys sign off with Don’t Forget Love a minor, but heartfelt farewell.

This ain’t no Psychedelic Pill, but hey, it still might be just what the doctor ordered in these crazy times.

Marty Duda

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