Neil Young & Crazy Horse
I was a little nervous tackling Psychedelic Pill after the dump Neil Young & Crazy Horse laid with Americana earlier this year. The covers collection of American standards made me question whether Uncle Neil had succumbed to another aneurysm and was ready to be put out to pasture. So painful was reviewing Americana that I think I went a month without listening to On a Beach (or any Neil Young for that matter) for the first time since high school. But you know what they say about abusive relationships, and like the guy who ran into the doorknob, I went back for more. Because I really love Neil, and he won’t do me like that again, he’s changed.
I’m happy to report that another beating has not been dished out. Psychedelic Pill may not be the classic late-career record that everyone expects to show up one of these days, but it does fall into the category of “good” late-career Neil along the lines of Chrome Dreams II and Prairie Wind. It is not a particularly aggressive record, musically or thematically. Most of record is an ode to the sixties, whether it be the music (“First time I heard ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, I felt that magic and took it home”) or ideals (“Me and some of my friends, we were gonna change the world”). Everything is simple, but deftly put forth as only Neil can do, and serve a purpose.
When it comes to the composition of the songs, if you don’t like guitar solos, Psychedelic Pill is an album to stay away from. What actually makes these solos unique in a sense is spacing of the verses fairly evenly between Neil and Poncho Sampedro’s solos. On the opening 27-minute track, “Driftin’ Back”, Neil starts with a nice folky acoustic guitar, and then with each passing verse gets louder and fuzzier…for 27 minutes. Every time I thought I was getting a little bored, another verse would start up and there would be so progression in the instrumentation to bring me back in. The 16-minute “Ramada Inn” and “Walk Like a Giant” also nicely position the verses.
“Ramada Inn” is particularly interesting, seemingly borrowing bits and pieces of former classic Neil Young guitar riffs to make a lengthy ode to his own career. A little “Hey Hey, My My” there, a little “Powderfinger” there, and you can make a pretty good song. The same goes with “She’s Always Dancing”, which seems to borrow a lot from “Down by the River”, and “For the Love of Man”, which starts off sounding a lot like “Heart of Gold”, but not to as much success. But even Neil’s lesser successes on Psychedelic Pill are exactly that, lesser successes, not the abject failures you heard on Living With War or Americana.
Neil, we still await your latter-career masterwork. But, in the meantime if you still keep pumping out albums like Psychedelic Pill we won’t be at all disappointed.
Can’t Miss: “Walk Like a Giant”, “Ramada Inn”, “Born in Ontario”
Can’t Hit: “For the Love of Man”