Neil Young: Homegrown (Reprise) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, October 30th, 2020  

Neil Young

Homegrown

Reprise

Jul 08, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


If you were to take a telescope and point it out into the clear night sky, you would see the stars, the moon, maybe a planet or two. While the visible light from these celestial bodies is, in reality, minutes-to-decades old, that does not diminish the glow or your viewing of it. You can bask in that light. And in this same way, music fans can now—finally—bask in the music of Homegrown, the 1974-recorded and 2020-released “new” record from Hall of Fame songwriter, Neil Young.

While pressing play on the new album is exhilarating, there is also a voyeuristic quality to the experience. We’re seeing Young, vulnerable, as he was in the mid-’70s. This album never got to age with Young or with his fans. The reason for that, Young says, is because this record was written after heartbreak and, once it was finished, it was not a state of mind he cared to revisit. So, he shelved Homegrown. Until now.

The bittersweet truth of that choice is that the record is lovely. In many instances, it’s Young at his most signature. It’s sad that fans are only hearing it now—but at least it’s here. The record opens with “Separate Ways,” one of the seven previously unreleased tracks. Within three notes, we know this is a Neil Young record. Jangly guitar, thumping and pronounced bass line, and snare drum. The song is about a split. We just met this record and already we’re leaving one another.

But here comes the recovery. The acoustic-led “Try” is about reconnection. It’s followed by the quick, piano-driven “Mexico,” which is about the lows after a breakup. “Love Is a Rose” is a longtime Young favorite about letting love live outside ownership. It’s also a hit. The titular “Homegrown” is a jaunty, thumping song about weed, which has helped many a broken heart heal. “Florida” is an odd track in the vein of Tom Waits’ “What’s He Building.” 

The latter half of Homegrown opens with “Kansas,” a fanciful, two-minute song complete with bending harmonica. “We Don’t Smoke It No More” recalls Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” in its rickety goofiness. “White Line” is a curious track, part-bitter, part-hopeful; contemplative and remorseful. It also seems to be a reference to cocaine but maybe not. “Vacancy” drips with Neil Young artfulness. It’s hefty, buttressed by ghostly harmonies and snarling electric guitars.

On the album’s final two songs, there’s a sense of reflection. Perhaps Young processed his heartbreak, perhaps he’s in another stage. “Little Wing” is a pretty, though forlorn story of a bird that leaves feathers as she lifts for the sky. Homegrown concludes with “Star of Bethlehem,” which laments the passage of time. We cling to memories as we break down, Young says. But, he sings, maybe a bit of light—say, a star—will guide us home, safe and sound. (www.neilyoungarchives.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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