Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Colorado

The 10’s proved to be a busy time for Neil Young. Starting off the decade with one of his strongest records – 2010’s Le Noise – it ends with another strong record, the recently released Crazy Horse reunion, Colorado. Although the new record marks the first Crazy Horse album in 7 years, Neil Young has released 9 studio albums in the last decade. That’s averaging a new studio release every 13 months, for those of you keeping tracking at home. There were moments over the last few years where people openly wondered if we were in an era comparable to Young’s wilderness period of the 80’s – such was the off the cuff, immediate quality of the records being released. For every Le Noise or Psychedelic Pill we also had Storytone or Peace Trail. In the midst of this, Neil also found time to form a new band with Promise of the Real – thus far, this has resulted in two albums that have multiple moments of inspiration mixed in with some lesser tunes. For me, there is always at least one classic Neil Young song on every album, and I’ve been pretty happy with the output over the last decade. I was excited when Colorado was announced – a reunion with the original grunge band, Crazy Horse. That feeling hasn’t gone away after repeated listens – in fact, this is arguably the strongest Neil Young album of the decade.

Longtime Crazy Horse rhythm guitarist Ralph “Poncho” Sampedro doesn’t appear on this record. In his stead is Nils Lofgren, who hasn’t played with Neil Young since 1993’s Unplugged album. Lofgren brings a different vibe to Crazy Horse than Sampedro – it feels less out of control, a hazy complexity in the air. The Crazy Horse album this most reminds me of is 1994’s Sleeps With Angels – a sigh of resignation permeates the record. Backing vocals – a trademark of the ‘Horse – add to the overall feeling.

Think of Me opens the record with a rush of harmonica and a laid back vibe. This is Neil looking back, providing nostalgia and warmth in a way that only he can do. She Showed Me Love isn’t – as you might expect – about a woman. No, this is a an ode to Mother Earth. Intricate guitar work, loose, ragged – this is the real deal. “I saw old white guys trying to kill mother nature”. Classic Neil. The song’s guitar work changes in tone as the song goes on and on as the band sighs “She showed me love”. The song is over 13 minutes and mostly works for me. Help Me Lose My Mind is a rant against materialism with guitar tones that hue close to the classic grunge sound that Crazy Horse basically invented. The backing vocals really stand out here, the sweetness a nice contrast to the dissonant guitar work. Green Is Blue is laid back Neil, mournful lyrics and acoustic based. It is a lament, a song length regret at what we are doing to the Earth. “We saw the polar bear, she floated / On a piece of ice from another time”. Milky Way is my favorite song. Tonally, it is dealing in shades of gray – it splits the difference between Neil’s acoustic (or softer) and electric personas. Sadness is in the air and I love this air. My favorite verse of Neil’s in recent memory: “I was sailing in the Milky Way / Losing track of memories / That weren’t that day / Right by her side / As the stars flew by I did collide / With memory but somehow / I survived / And became free”. I Do ends the album with a note of simplicity, a yearning to start anew. An acoustic campfire sing a long, it really makes an impact when the band sings in unison “Thanks for making all this happen again / We’re gonna do it just like we did back then”. This is the perfect song to end the album.

Neil Young puts out so many records, it can be easy to take him for granted. Colorado is the one to pick up if you haven’t heard any of his recent albums. Hell, it is the one pick up even if you have been following him. It comes highly recommended.

Verdict: Classic Neil

Tracks:

  1. Think of Me
  2. She Showed Me Love
  3. Olden Days
  4. Help Me Lose My Mind
  5. Green is Blue
  6. Shut It Down
  7. Milky Way
  8. Eternity
  9. Rainbow of Colors
  10. I Do

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