Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Colorado (Reprise)
A friend, a true Neil Young fan, tells me with a straight face that Young has not written a great song since he quit smoking dope. This is nonsense, but the 74-year-old rocker, who went cold turkey after his marriage to Daryl Hannah, does seem to be in a real hurry these days. I’ve lost count of how many albums he’s released this decade. No whim seems to go unheeded. Young’s causes – all related to saving the planet – mean well, but he ends up with a lot of cringe-worthy lyrics. Still, when Young decides it’s Crazy Horse time -the minimalist bar band that has complimented his emotive power off and on since the late sixties- his fans sit up at attention like they’ve all heard some kind of rock and roll dog whistle. Maybe, just maybe, there’s another Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zuma, even Ragged Glory in the offing. Colorado isn’t that, but it is his most enjoyable album in years. If you’re thinking Young finally took his time, think again. The promotional film “Mountaintop” that chronicles the making of the album shows Young working at breakneck speed, driving an under-rehearsed Crazy Horse (who now includes past Young collaborator Nils Lofgren on guitar) through song after song, cursing even the slightest engineering delay. The music seems to be bursting out of him. Young is one of rock’s most prodigious talents, and seeing his manic work ethic is fascinating. If he slows down, all is lost. You can hear the urgency throughout the album, his cracked voice, the way his guitar – my God, his guitar – breaks through with a thick, primal tone, even in quiet moments. He solos like the gates have been flung open. Surprisingly, for a band not known for finesse, a lot of Colorado’s best moments do come on the softer end, including the album’s two finest songs, “I Do”’ and “Milky Way”. They’re the album’s few hopeful moments. For the most part, there’s a foreboding resignation hanging over songs like “Help Me Lose My Mind”, “Think of Me”, and the angry “Shut It Down”. “Green Is Blue” plays like the planet’s epitaph. “We saw the people rise/Divided/We fought each other while we/Lost our coveted prize.” There’s also some tough sledding, overly-preachy material (including a 13-minute “She Showed Me Loved”) whose absence would have made Colorado stronger. But for the most part, the album, if not exactly fresh, finds Young energized and reaching for something vital. And for Young, it’s all about the reach. For all his greatness and missteps, one thing remains constant: you can hardly wait to see where he’s going next.
– Jeff McCord, KUTX Music Editor