Fire Note Says: Neil Young saddles up the Horse for a long psychedelic journey through the past!
Album Review: Until this spring, it had been nearly a decade since Neil Young had saddled up his longtime backing band Crazy Horse and recorded with them. Now we have Psychedelic Pill, which is the 2nd album this year from this powerhouse! While the first album, Americana was a rough and rocking take on some old chestnuts from the past, covers included “O Susannah”,” Clementine”, and “This Land Is Your Land”, Psychedelic Pill is a collection of new material, although it too finds Neil looking to the past for inspiration.
Album opener, “Driftin’ Back”, is a 27 minute psychedelic haze. It starts acoustically with just Neil and his guitar, and then the band slowly fades in, creating a dreamlike effect which carries through the entire song. At 27 minutes, the song never gets old, there are numerous feedback laced guitar solos that are never pointless and always move the track forward. This is exactly the kind of stuff that this band has been doing since the early 70’s, though they have never stretched it this far on record before. It’s a stunning album opener. Only Neil Young & Crazy Horse could open an album in this fashion and have it work.
The title track is awash in phasing and flanging (there is a straight mix of the song tacked onto the end as a bonus track) which also suggests that Neil is working from a dreamlike state and trying to convey that feeling to the listener. “Ramada Inn” is the standout track on the record, and one of the finest Neil songs in many years. At just under 17 minutes, it sounds exactly like what you want it too, a longer “Cortez the Killer”. Once again, it finds Neil looking back on the past, not necessarily through his own eyes, but through the eyes of the protagonist. When Neil sings “And every morning comes the sun, and they both rise into the day” you can feel the years of experience and more importantly wisdom that the line contains. Album closer, “Walk Like a Giant”, is another excellent 16 minute workout, though it’s not quite as dynamic as the first two long pieces on the record. You’re looking at over an album’s worth of material just in those 4 songs, and there are still 4 more tracks on the record.
The shorter tracks aren’t quite as thrilling as the long cuts, but they are still pretty darn good. “Born in Ontario” rides a nice little groove ala “Homegrown”, and it tells the tale of Neil growing up and seeing all of his musical heroes as he was coming of age. “For The Love of Man” is a quiet introspective number that feels a bit out of place at first, but over repeated listenings, it bridges the gap nicely between “She’s Always Dancing” and “Walk Like a Giant”, it’s a chance to catch your breath.
This is the most satisfying Neil Young & Crazy Horse record since Ragged Glory , and one of the real highpoints of the latter half of his career. Don’t be afraid of the long track times, trust me, all of the songs go somewhere, they transport you as if you are in a dreamlike state, this is no pointless guitar wankery, this is the real deal!
Key Tracks: “Driftin’ Back”, “Ramada Inn”, “She’s Always Dancing”
Artists With Similar Fire: Jimi Hendrix / Dinosaur Jr / Bob Dylan
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-Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter