Like clockwork, about 18 months after the last Neil Young album arrives the new one, A Letter Home. Early rumors had pegged this one as a duets record with Jack White, but those proved to be unfounded. Jack White IS involved – he duets with Neil Young on two tracks and the record is out on White’s Third Man Records. Recalling Young’s experimental 80’s phase, this record comes with its own idiosyncracies – an album recorded entirely in a refurbished Voice-O-Graph box dating from 1947. The Voice-O-Graph (as shown on the album cover) is reminiscent of a telephone booth with barely enough room to accommodate Neil Young and his guitar. The standard edition is a direct to vinyl recording, warm crackles & pops present on the vinyl, CD, and download versions. The deluxe box set features an audiophile edition – just Neil and his guitar in glorious mono. You’d think this might come off as gimmicky – but it doesn’t. In fact, it is the 4th Neil Young record in a row that is an above average effort.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
Resignation and regret often times go hand in hand. I’ve always been drawn to songs and artists that can convey these sentiments with ease and the silver screen is no exception. After we collectively breathed a sigh of relief at surviving the oft prophesied Apocalypse that was scheduled to land on January 1, 2000 we could settle into our movie watching routines. Wonder Boys was a financial failure on every level imaginable; conversely it was an artistic triumph for every writer, actor, actress, producer, director, and musician involved. It starred Michael Douglas as a pot addicted professor struggling to write a 2nd novel who also happened to be having an affair with his bosses wife. It’s supporting cast included Robert Downey Jr. (Ironman), Tobey Maguire (Spiderman), and Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes from Batman). The soundtrack was a complimentary masterpiece, featuring John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. Dylan’s song written exclusively for the movie, Things Have Changed, signaled a possible new direction for him – apathy. Inhabiting the mindset of Grady (played by Michael Douglas), Dylan allows resignation to bleed through in a way that hasn’t been equaled. This is not the hopeful Bob Dylan of the 60’s or the rabble-rouser who sang The Hurricane – this is Bob Dylan saying “I used to care / but things have changed”. Brilliant as Dylan is, I foolishly expected him to continue on the path this song seemed to lay out – he would lighten up, change directions, and never really come back to this piercing sigh of indifference. I suppose he had so convincingly inhabited the mindset of Grady that I never realized he was acting out a part. The video is spliced into scenes from the film, along with notable guest appearances. This is Bob Dylan at his finest.