- 01 Apr 02
This time out, the sound is Stax and the vibe is, in Ginsberg's words, holy soul jellyroll, blues but no haikus
Neil Young’s early ‘90s renaissance provided him with fuel on which he’s been coasting for about eight years now. Bluntly put, he hasn’t made a record you could leave on all the way through since Mirrorball.
This time out, the sound is Stax and the vibe is, in Ginsberg’s words, holy soul jellyroll, blues but no haikus. The line up is Young plus Poncho Sampedro teamed up with old pros like Booker T on organ and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass. The accent is on more abbreviated, white-knuckled guitar figures and pumping grooves last seen abandoned on the outskirts of Motown.
It also means the spotlight is on Neil as a soul singer. This is not a good thing. Sure, on records like Tonight’s The Night and Sleeps With Angels the fragility of Young’s voice lent the material its defining ache, but here, on tunes like ‘You’re My Girl’ and ‘Differently’, it just sounds weak and ill-pitched. By the same token, Young’s playing sounds mostly hemmed in by the white-collar arrangements. ‘Let’s Roll’, inspired by the words of passenger Todd Beamer on the UA flight that crashed in Pennsylvania September 11th, should be shot through with fear and dread, but instead it just sounds weighed down by the banality of the central riff and a solo that’s strained.