Neil Young
Storytone
Reprise Records
Reviewed by Michael Lohr

Neil Young has always done whatever he wants and taking risks much of the time is in his DNA. It’s who he is as a person and as an Storytone CD coverartist. But in 2015 who’d have thought that the “Godfather of Grunge” would do a Vegas-style Big Band mash up for his 35th album release. Ten songs of bigger than life, lavish orchestration and jazz rave-ups set to melodramatic flamboyance. And it is good, very good, if you’re into that sort of thing. Think Crazy Horse meets Michael Bublé with a 92-piece backing orchestra.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable this album proved to be. But granted, it may not be for everyone. “Storytone” has bold, brassy arrangements from Chris Weldon (the aforementioned Michael Bublé) and Michael Bearden (Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga). From the heavy orchestration of “Plastic Flowers” and the heavy handed protest song, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?” to the Big Band and Jazz influenced ditties like “Say Hello to Chicago” and “I Want To Drive My Car” Neil is all about the Vegas schmaltz on this album.

“Glimmer” is a track standout, as it shimmers with strings and melancholy mawkishness. The one track that doesn’t work for me here is “Tumbleweed.” It is a full-on orchestral driven song that honestly feels like it fell off of Disney movie soundtrack.

“Storytone” is like a bag of cotton candy. Very tasty and fun while it lasts, but by the end of the night you have a stomach ache and are left wondering why you ate the whole damn thing in the first place.

 

Psychedelic Pill
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Reprise Records

Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed ‘Americana,’ Neil Young has released the most guitar rock-driven record since his “Rockinuntitled’ in the Free World,” Godfather of Grunge days. ‘Psychedelic Pill’ is a two-disc jam session that is afire with 21st century discord.

The guitars are jagged and sharp. Neil’s voice shimmers with wild wisdom, the kind usually reserved for shaman and witch doctors. With three songs coming in at over the 16 minute mark, including the 27+ minute ‘Driftin’ Back,’ a hypnotic track lamenting hip-hop and the mp3, the jam band ideal is fully embraced. The other lengthy songs, ‘Ramada Inn’ and ‘Walk Like a Giant’ are near classics, with the latter being arguably one of the best Neil Young and Crazy Horse songs ever written. This guitar-driven track is full of apologetic regret and bemoans the failures of his generation to make the world a better place. A theme that continues on ‘Twisted Road’ as the lyrics speak of dreamers like himself, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead and their inability to create lasting change. Elsewhere, the title track is riff and lyrically reminiscent of the classic ‘Cinnamon Girl,’ while ‘Born in Ontario’ is a melancholy country-edged tune that takes us back to Neil’s childhood in Canada.

For fans of true rock and roll music, ‘Psychedelic Pill’ will provide hours of musical enjoyment as you attempt to aurally interpret the many layers of sound and message. In truth this album turns out to be a celebration of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s long and storied career; a collective living legend with a seemingly endless well of talent. Pick this up immediately.