Everyone’s favourite Canadian singer song writer returns with second album of the year
I love it when some artists aren’t content to release one album a year. This year there has been a slew of artists who have released more than one album. Neil Young now joins their ranks. This isn’t the first time Young has released multiple albums in one year. I’m not including live albums or parts of his archive series, just new studio albums. In 1975 he released Tonight’s the Night and Zuma. 1989 he released Eldorado and Freedom. 2006 Living with War and the stripped back version Living with war: In the Beginning (ok it was the same album twice, but both versions are different). 2012 Americana and Psychedelic Pill were released. Earlier in the year he released A Letter Home, recorded straight to vinyl at Jack White’s Third Man Records and this week Storytone.
Storytone is a double album, but has more in common with Living with War then Psychedelic Pill. The first disc is just Neil doing what Neil does best. Sing and play guitar. This is the sound of Neil baring his soul. He discusses his fear for the future of the planet, but at the same time, he still wants to drive his cars. For the first time you can hear the mortality in his voice. You get a sense that he hasn’t finished creating, and the bigger message will be coming soon. The second disc is the same songs, but this times he’s backed by a 92 piece orchestra and choir (apart from three tracks where is backed by a big band). It sounds unlike anything that he’s released before. Rumour has it that during the recording sessions he sung in the same room as the orchestra and choir. How’s that for old school?
Individually both discs work, but during certain tracks (for me it was the big bands ones) I found that they grated a bit (like the Are You Passionate album did). While this new sound is interesting, I’m not sure if it’s any good. The intimacy and concern that Young’s voice had on the stripped down versions, was lost due to the grandiose nature of the backing bands. While you picked up that he was worried about the state of the planet for future generations, as he was having such a blast with the orchestra he didn’t care as much. Sadly this was a good idea, but could have been executed better (maybe an orchestra running through his greatest hits as a bonus disc instead)? Let’s hope there’s a Le Noise 2 is in the pipeline…