Artist: Neil Young
Release Date: 6/17/2016
The planet continues to deteriorate. Fortunately that’s not the case for this Canadian rocker’s music.
On his latest 2-CD release, Earth, Neil Young and Promise of the Real share 13 live recordings from their 2015’s The Monsanto Years tour. The album is an interesting collection of both old and new material that represents a beautiful, yet at times grueling, depiction of our planet. Fans will be pleased to find nuggets from albums like Ragged Glory and After the Gold Rush, enhanced by new musical overdubs and the voices of nature—be they bees, birds, cows, frogs or crickets.
For his 37th album as a solo artist, Neil Young carefully strung together songs that cut to the heart of shared emotional experiences like “My Country Home,” “Hippie Dream” and “Human Highway.” On “After The Gold Rush,” a chilling realization surfaces when Young alters the lyrics of the chorus: “look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st century.” He’s taken deep-rooted concepts that have become such a part of our lives and polished them up in his mind like precious little amulets, leaving us that much richer. Also included here is the previously-unreleased “I Won’t Quit,” renamed “Seed Justice,” that displays a bassline juxtaposed by croaking frogs that would seem ridiculous if anybody else had done it, but this is Uncle Neil! He’s quirky, he’s loose, but most of all, he’s the real deal, a man of unwavering beliefs.
Naysayers will critique his voice, say he’s getting too old, but what they fail to grasp is this musician has driven around the same circles, those ideological cul-de-sacs of knowledge and truth, his entire career. His concern about the planet, most evident on “Monsanto Years,” is not some publicity stunt to garner popularity; rather a man singing about the same things that have affected him for the past half century. In 1985, Young, along with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, began Farm Aid to raise money and awareness for family farmers across the country. In its first year, the festival earned $9,000,000 for farmers and two years later, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act. There’s all this talk about making “America great again,” meanwhile people are actually out there making a difference.
To describe Neil Young’s many qualities would take a hefty thesaurus. He’s left such an impression on rock music that would leave us all impoverished had he never decided to pick up a guitar. Though Earth most likely will not appear on any best album year end lists, its intent goes far from unnoticed.