Friday, November 28, 2008

album of the day

Greendale by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

File this one under spooky coincidences. I was singing along with the final track on this album, Be The Rain, in the car on the way to work this morning after it popped up as part of a random iPod sequence. Then, later, I popped in to Strange Maps in an idle moment at work only to find the album cover staring up at me from this post. The map on the cover is the connection, of course - an interactive version can be found at the album's website.

Followers of Neil Young are subjected to an emotional rollercoaster over the course of his uniquely diverse and mercurial album-releasing career; my take on it goes like this:
  • 1970s good - his self-titled 1969 debut solo album is a bit ropey, but thereafter it's generally excellent, if wildly eclectic, up to 1979's Live Rust.
  • 1980s equally wildly eclectic, but generally not in a good way, from the bizarre vocoder experimentation of Trans up to the lumpy garage/synth-rock of Life. 1988's This Note's For You was an interesting genre exercise, but 1989's Freedom is the only essential 1980s Young album.
  • first half of the 1990s pretty good - from the indispensable Ragged Glory through to Sleeps with Angels in 1994.
  • thereafter stylistically all over the place as ever, but with slightly more uneven results quality-wise.
Anyway, back to Greendale (no, not that Greendale). It's very stripped-down garage-rock for the most part, particularly stark given the absence of Crazy Horse's second guitarist Frank Sampedro. Since the band don't do anything as poncy as overdubs this leaves some of the songs sounding a bit thin, especially when Young heads off on a lengthy solo excursion without the usual chunky rhythm guitar in the background. Also some of the songs are a bit on the long side, particularly Carmichael, Grandpa's Interview and Son Green, each of which check in at over 10 minutes.

Generally speaking it's one of his better recent albums, though. And Be The Rain is a terrific closer, despite featuring a winsome hippy choir warbling "be the magic in the Northern Lights", "we've got to save Mother Earth" and the like, and Young bellowing incomprehensibly through a megaphone, which shouldn't really work. But it's a cracking tune and there's some increasingly manic guitar-strangling towards the end.

The Strange Maps page has a couple of interesting links, most notably this Word magazine list of album cover locations with embedded Google Map facility. You'll be wanting to know that the cover of the Amadildoes' Very Pissed-Off!! was shot in a toilet in Horsens in Denmark, for instance.

No comments: