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.
In the 60’s and 70’s it seemed like artists released records more quickly. They’d put out a great record, tour for a bit, then get right back into the studio. It seemed like this model began to shift in the late 80’s. I’m not sure if it was waiting 4 years for Guns ‘n’ Roses to put out the Use Your Illusion albums or if it was the 3 years between Disintegration and Wish by The Cure. Either way, major acts began to make the fans wait an inordinate amount of time between records. Neil Young has thankfully been (mostly) an exception to this rule.
There comes a point in an artist’s career where every album release is accompanied by a the double-edged damning praise statement “it is INSERT ARTISTS NAME best album since….landmark album, usually from about 20 years ago”. There are a few schools of thought when it comes to this:
1. Lazy journalism
2. Truly the artist reached a peak with that landmark album and for some reason has never been able to match that level of artistry since
3. The listener has not gone into the album with an open mind, saddling the artists final work with the listeners preconceived notions of what the album should sound like (usually, but not always tied into #1)
Neil Young seems to be an artist that confounds reviewers. Almost every album since 1989’s Freedom has included some sort of praise saying “wow, this is Neil’s best album since…”. 18 months goes by, Neil puts another album out and the cycle starts all over again. Every reviewer mysteriously comes down with a case of amnesia about the review they had just written a year and a half before. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about: Continue reading