[Published in the Spectrum section of The Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 30]
NEIL YOUNG & PROMISE OF THE REAL
Reprise Records / Warner Australia
Neil Young is Canadian, but he loves the USA. It’s of these two facts that we’re reminded straight up, via the first two lines of Young’s new studio album, and they lay bare said album’s statement of intent: Young is only a visitor to America, but he’s come to love it and all it stands for. As the album unfurls though, and as you’d expect, Young realises that not all is well these days – where ‘The Visitor’ differs to past work however, is that it isn’t a protest record, it’s more one of hope, the underlying message being that we, the people, can restore this once proud nation to its former glory. Backed once again by the excellent Promise Of The Real, fronted by Lukas Nelson (son of Willie), ‘The Visitor’ presents some choice cuts, like the Crazy Horse-esque opener, the bluesy ‘Diggin’ A Hole’, and the groovy, stripped back guitar-led ‘Stand Tall’. And there are some odd inclusions, like the almost national anthem-like pomp of ‘Children Of Destiny’. It’s this discordance that is the album’s Achilles heel, but by persevering, by really listening, one can overcome. Which is of course, what Young wants you to do.
Samuel J. Fell