Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Colorado (Reprise) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, December 15th, 2019  

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Colorado

Reprise

Oct 29, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The irrepressible Neil Young adds to his ever-growing catalog of albums with Colorado. Recorded with Crazy Horse (Nils Lofgren subs in for the retired Frank Sampedro), it's their first trip out of the barn since 2012's Psychedelic Pill. In spite of the idyllic mountaintop setting in which it was recorded, Young's thoughts are squarely on Planet Earth's waning days. 

The opening "Think of Me" is the best thing here and also thankfully the subtlest. Young reflects on his mortality while also painting a picture of Mother Earth at her finest: "I can gallop across your open prairie, dive below your deepest sea." The harmonica plays over a quieter, but patented, Crazy Horse stomp makes for a promising opener. As Young is wont to do in his later years though, he spends too much time clubbing the listener over the head like the proverbial baby seal. The piano ballad "Green is Blue" (which just as easily could have been titled "It's Not Easy Being Green") is full of cringe-worthy save the planet lines: "we saw the pod of whales lying bloated on the beach." No doubt a sentiment anyone can get behind without having it served up so raw.

One could argue the Horse (as Young refers to his band) was not built for understatement, so some of the grungier tracks here make for the most musical impact. "Help Me Lose My Mind" recasts the paranoid glory of earlier albums like On the Beach with a blistering solo and self-destructive edge. Likewise, "Shut It Down" rages full on with the fatalistic ideal that if we can't save the planet we might as well just torch it now.

Most of Colorado contends with man's desecration of the planet as longest track "She Showed Me Love" laments "I saw white guys trying to kill Mother Nature." Young does set aside some time for sentimentality on the jaunty "Eternity" and the album closing reflection of "I Do," which could be a nod to his recent bride. In a nod to the political landscape of today he includes an overly clunky song called "Rainbow of Colors." Though his heart's in the right place, the hymn-like call for racial equality sounds like something put together for a fifth grade spring play. 

You can't accuse Young of not wearing all the appropriate badges, flags, and emblems, but the message has become more than a little threadbare over the years. Fortunately, Crazy Horse sounds as reliable as it always has even if no new ideas are borne out. The guitars of "She Showed Me Love" sound as alive as they did on "Down By the River" if not more than a little reminiscent. Rather than penning new songs, Young might be better advised to get Crazy Horse back out on the road one more time before putting them out to pasture. Assuming there are any pastures left to be found.

Note: The album is paired with a 90-minute movie entitled Mountaintop in honor of the recording session at Colorado's Studio in the Clouds. The video opens with Young and his band huddled around a microphone singing "Rainbow of Colors." The song's sentiment is made all the more ironic by the visual of four old white dudes singing it. In fact the entire video plays out as unintentional parody. Young certainly comes off as passionate, but is overly grouchy throughout. He prefers the playback from Lofgren's iPhone as compared to anything the studio can produce. The "story" becomes a struggle of man vs. man and man vs. studio, while the protagonists also battle high altitude and producer John Hanlon's poison oak rash. Shots of the band huffing out of oxygen canisters and Hanlon applying ointment are repeat laugh inducers. Given the cabin fever tension in the air, the only thing that likely keeps Young and Hanlon from an all out brawl is Hanlon's fear of transmitting his rash to others (spoiler alert: apparently poison oak is not contagious). While providing some glimpse of how the album came to be and evidencing Young's crotchety side, Mountaintop is a slog to get through. (www.neilyoungarchives.com

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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