In anticipation of Neil Young hitting the stage here in Vancouver on November 11th, it seems as though there is no better time to review his 34th studio album, Americana.
Americana was released on June 5th 2012 & after waiting nearly ten years for collaboration between Neil Young and Crazy Horse, I was a tad skeptical of how well Neil Young’s renditions of songs from my early childhood would come across. I may know all the words to “Oh Susannah” but am I going to go out of my way to listen to it while enjoying my morning coffee? Probably not. As luck would have it, my exposure to this album would be delivered right to my doorstep.
Everyone who ordered tickets to the show have likely now received Americana in the mail. For most I realize that CD’s are rather obsolete, with few stores selling them and very few people still owning CD players. For me, it was Christmas in November. I am (still) a CD junkie. I love everything about physically holding an album in my hands. Thus far I have only attended one other show where CD’s were included with the ticket purchase but I hope this is a trend that gains some traction. I find this to be a small, yet meaningful thank-you gesture from artist to devoted fan. And besides, if I am not spending my money on buying the album, I will most likely indulge in the more expensive option of concert memorabilia; posters, t-shirts, towels, sweatshirts etc.
Without having the patience to upload the album to iTunes first, I simply hit play and pulled out the CD enclosure. Thankfully I was quite surprised with the more grisly tones of protest and struggle that came from this album. A wonderful aspect of the booklet enclosed in the CD packaging is a brief description of each song’s history, background and meaning. This was engrossing to read while letting each successive song wash over me. By giving the songs context and placing them within the framework of their roots, the album has a lot of depth and is really quite captivating. Neil Young, when asked to comment on Americana had this to say:
“Every one of these songs [on Americana] has verses that have been ignored. And those are the key verses; those are the things that make these songs live. They’re a little heavy for kindergarteners to be singing. The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them — the other verses in “This Land Is Your Land” are very timely, or in “Clementine,” the verses are so dark.
Almost everyone has to do with people getting killed, with life-or-death struggles. You don’t hear much about that; they’ve been made into something much more light. So I moved them away from that gentler interpretation. With new melodies and arrangements, we could use the folk process to invoke the original meanings for this generation.” http://www.americansongwriter.com/2012/06/great-quotations-neil-young/
Astonishingly enough, after keeping fans waiting for some many years, Americana is actually only one of two albums released by Neil Young and Crazy Horse this year. Psychedelic Pill was released just over a week ago and is their first original work together since their 2003-2004 tour. It is also their longest album & is rumored to have emerged from jam sessions during the recording of Americana. With so much material, new and old, it seems hard to predict exactly how his November 11th show in Vancouver will unfold but I’m expecting him to cover at least a few tracks off of Americana and if you have not given the album a listen yet, I would recommend “Clementine” is a good track to start with.