en: Chrome Dreams II [info]
Way back in the mid-70s Neil Young planned to release an album by the name of Chrome Dreams. Then it vanished from the schedules, another victim to the whims of Young and his mercurial muse. It's this very adherence to going whichever way the wind blows in his mind that makes him such a fascinating and frustrating artist. That, and the seasoned Neil-watcher's knowledge that eventually he may release the material. Hence the (humorous) title of this album: Like the original, which veered between the dreamy fireside folk of "Will To Love" and the anguished love cry of "Like A Hurricane", number two has something of just about every side of the man known as 'Shakey'.
He's returned to the co-production skills of Niko Bolas with whom, as the 'Volume Dealers' he made 1989's Freedom, widely regarded as his first return to form after his 80s wilderness years. Indeed, Chrome...could be his first consistently great album since the late 90s. With trusty compadres Ben Keith on steel guitar and Crazy Horse's Ralph Molina on drums, it turns out that several of the songs here have been maturing in the vaults until deemed ripe enough for the public.
Beautiful Bluebird; its mellow country intro reminding you of "Out On The Weekend" from the halcyon Harvest years, dates from the Old Ways sessions, while the centrepiece is the awesome "Ordinary People" which dates back to Freedom. A companion piece to "Crime In The City", it returns Neil to the role of modern social commentator. But at over 18 minutes it also allows him to really wring the neck of his old Gibson Les Paul. As such it's bound for a place in his 'classic' canon.
The journey from here on in is a little bumpier. Having so many sides to you can mean that unless you're a fan of every note he's recorded it can get testing. "Dirty Old Man" is a page from his Ragged Glory/Sleeps With Angels growing-old-disreputably era; "Shining Light" is one of his sugary, faux-naïve falsetto confections and closer "The Way" is impassioned, though its children's chorus may be too sentimental for cynical English ears.
But that's Neil, he's never less than honest and true to his own personal vision. After Living With War's protest cries, Chrome...is an album about pure humanity. A subject he's always going to be comfortable with. From hayseed hero to angry axe god; *Chrome Dreams II *will warm your heart. It's all still here.