Reprise 525956 180g LP/CD
Produced by: Daniel Lanois
Engineered by: Mark Howard
Mixed by: Daniel Lanois
Mastered by: Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering
Neil Brings LeNoise, Leaves the Funk
by Michael Fremer
October 01, 2010
Neil plays, Daniel "La-noise" manipulates. The result is a solo album—a man and his guitar— that takes on gargantuan proportions as it throbs, undulates, oozes, howls, flows, rattles and hums through a series of reminiscences, philosophical discussions, entreaties and proclamations of faith that only an older man could possibly produce and deliver with such rich and fervent authority.
Young’s riffs and melodic lines will bring to mind previous grunge epics from his Crazy Horse collaborations like “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cortez the Killer,” but not anchored to a rhythm section and expanded by Lanois’ multiple echoes, loops and other sonic business, they attain a surprising ethereal lightness combined with the obvious crushing weight.
It’s what people write songs about and pray about, Young sings, but he admits in the opening lines that when he sings about love and war, “I don’t really know what I am saying.”
For those who have journeyed through time with Neil Young, nothing here will come as a big surprise but all of it will resonate emotionally and especially physically if you still have the guts to turn it up. Way up!
“The Hitchhiker” covers Young’s emotional ups and downs coupled to his drug history non-judgmentally, going from early years smoking hash (through a pen), amphetamines (felt like his head was in a glass, but he knew it wouldn’t last), Valium prescribed by a doctor to counter agitation as fame hit him in ways he hadn’t expected, then paranoia when he wouldn’t sign an autograph, appear on TV or “see or be seen,” then weed after he’d moved to his ranch, and finally after a break-up cocaine, where his “…head did explode.” Young admits that though he’s tried to leave his past behind, “..it’s catching up with me. I don’t know how I’m standing here, living in my life. I’m thankful for my children and my faithful wife.” All delivered without a grain of self-pity.
On “Peaceful Valley Boulevard,” Young delivers a powerful ecological plea delivering a history of the West from pre-Transcontinental railroad days through the near extinction of the Buffalo, the California gold rush, the age of the automobile and finally climate change, and on the closer “Rumblin’” Young contemplates mortality as he feels a rumbling “in her ground.” “When will I learn how to give back?” he asks. “When will I learn how to feel?”
Despite, or perhaps because of Lanois’ mega-treatments consisting of loops, chorusing, echoes and other forms of sonic manipulation, the songs grow in both physical and emotional stature. The bottom end foundation is huge and deep. If your system can do deep bass, this recording will shake your room from the opening chord of “Walk With Me.”
Though the processing and time-shifting is major, Lanois’s deft hand never takes control or diminishes Young’s performances or intentions; quite the opposite in fact. The stage is massive: wide and deep, with Young appearing as a giant, diffuse apparition between the speakers. Young's singing is as direct and powerful as its ever been.
The album was recorded in Daniel Lanois’s home studio, located in a grandiose, old Silver Lake mansion in a section of Los Angeles once rundown and now among the hippest sections of the city. It’s pictured on the album’s inner gatefold and on the back cover. The place has an obvious deep “vibe,” probably similar to the one in New Orleans out of which Lanois used to operate. The album was recorded in real time using the producer’s arsenal of vintage recording and processing gear and manipulated later.
You can watch Neil perform the album live on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU5B53b9ntQ but to really feel the power, you need this 180g LP.
Thanks to Michael over at http://www.musicangle.com/ for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by MusicAngle.com for more reviews and features.
Copyright © 2008 MusicAngle.com & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission