ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Psychedelic Pill

ds album reviews

by Chris Familton

Neil-Young-Pscyhedelic-PillRating8These are prolific times for Neil Young, even more so than usual with the release of two Crazy Horse albums, a memoir, continued work on next volume of Archives and the development of a new high-end digital music format. Add in touring to promote all of the above and it is something of a landmark year for the 67 year old. Psychedelic Pill’s precursor Americana felt like a warm-up (albeit a great one), a re-setting of the Crazy Horse dial and a chance for the band to find their feet while Young re-calibrated his songwriting compass with a newly drug and alcohol-free state of mind. The good news is that his muse hasn’t deserted him and as a band Crazy Horse are sounding as free-ranging and synchronistic as ever.

At ninety minutes in length the first surprise is that there are only nine songs on the new album with one of them, the title track, presented as two different mixes. The inclusion of both versions is confusing and unnecessary as the first is saturated in a flanger effect, a literal tie-in to the name of the song/album no doubt but it is grossly distracting and offers nothing to the record, especially when the straight take on the song that closes the album is so much better, a grizzly rampage in the good tradition of songs like Fuckin’ Up from Ragged Glory.

What we get with those eight different songs is a musical journey guided by Young’s muse through a world where time and place are irrelevant – time in the sense of both lyrical subject matter and a disregard for conventional song structure. Ramada Inn and Walk Like A Giant both hit sixteen minutes, paling in comparison to the epic twenty seven minute stretch of Driftin’ Back with Young’s guitar conjuring up billowing squalls of distortion and spiraling infinite solos.

The relationship between Psychedelic Pill and his memoir is an important one. Both are documents of Young’s life in emotional and geographical terms. As he has done increasingly ever since the release of Harvest Moon, Young remembers lost friends, faded dreams and places he loves with a warm nostalgia. Walk Like A Giant, with its infectious whistling melody bemoans the loss of the hippie dream – a theme he has often visited in song. Born in Ontario pays homage to his hometown and feels like a restating of his Canadian roots while Twisted Road charts the emotions he felt upon hearing Dylan, Orbison and The Grateful Dead with a warm and wistful country feel in the vein of 1977’s Homegrown.

Crazy Horse are best known for their epic, scorched-earth guitar jams yet their records always throw up beautiful and tender moments like For The Love of Man. The song is another in the endless canon of love songs but this one takes a different tact, questioning the concept and institution of religion. It offers no answers, just elegiac questions and shows that for all his gruff railings at the world Young can also leave open-ended questions hanging gracefully in the air.

Fans of Neil Young & Crazy Horse will rightfully relish Psychedelic Pill as yet another worthy addition to their discography. They will forgive him for his excessive romanticising and celebrate the epic sprawl of the album in a way that many younger listeners just discovering the band might not. This is an album that feels eminently real and from the heart and soul of four musicians who respect, honour and follow the song wherever it may take them.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

LIST: DS Top Albums of 2012


2012 felt like somewhat of a mixed bag of musical lollies with our favourites encompassing americana, power pop, 80s synth, indie and many shades of psychedelia. The only thing that tied them all together was the strong streak of melody that each was built on. Even in the case of someone like Neil Young & Crazy Horse it was Young’s incredible weaving of musical notes on Old Black that made that record such a delight. Hopefully there will be a few surprises scattered across our list which will send you down another musical rabbit hole to find out if we are onto something… Hopefully we are.




square-600-11Charlie Horse – I Hope I’m Not A Monster

square-600-16Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

LOWER PLENTYLower Plenty – Hard Rubbish

square-600-15Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

square-600-13Lee Ranaldo – Between The Times & The Tides

UnknownNeil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

square-600-17Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow

square-600Lambchop – Mr. M

square-600-14Suzy Connolly – Night Larks

square-600-12Father John Misty – Dear Fun

ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Americana

by C. Familton

When news first broke that Neil Young & Crazy Horse were reconvening there was a palpable sense of excitement in the virtual air online yet for many that initial burst of joy quickly turned to apprehension when word seeped out that their first new release was going to be a collection of traditional folk songs, many of which are staples of childhood communal sing-a-longs and to cap it all off they’d recorded a version of the English national anthem God Save The Queen. The good news – and there is only good news with Americana – is that Crazy Horse are well and truly back in the saddle and have taken ownership of this batch of songs with the kind of brutal sensitivity that only they are capable of.

The opening track Oh Susannah was the first taste of the album to make its way into the general public and it gives a fair indication of how the rest of the record rolls out. The rhythm section is solid, plodding and beautifully primitive yet in Billy Talbot’s playing there is a melodic swing that belies the simplicity of the overall feel of his and drummer Ralph Molina’s interaction. The song feels like a loose jam committed to tape very early in its genesis and held together by that magical glue of familiarity and well worn comfort that binds Young and the band.

Clementine was for most of us a song that was akin to a nursery rhyme about the daughter of a miner. We didn’t really know or understand much about her but it was fun to sing along to, cross legged in the school assembly hall. Young takes that innocence and imbues it with tragedy by reinstating more of the original lyrics and indeed the meaning of the song which addresses either a father or lover’s ache for his lost loved one who has drowned in an accident. Young’s guitar adds gravitas to the tragic mood with its dark slashing chords ringing out amongst the words. Crazy Horse apply the same technique to Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be coming Round The Mountain) recasting our childhood memories of some lady about to arrive in a chariot drawn by white horses. Ostensibly a tale of the second coming of Jesus the band build a mood of heavy anticipation with Molina’s booming toms and Young’s wailing slide guitar.

Young has always reveled in rearranging and reinterpreting songs and on American he is up to his magnificent tricks all over the place. Both Tom Dula and the brilliant High Flyin’ Bird use arrangements that Young first played in his pre-Buffalo Springfield band The Squires while Gallows Pole utilises Odetta’s version of the folk classic. On that song, as on most songs on the album, Young’s voice is echoed and complemented by the Americana Choir that builds the communal feel of the album extremely effectively. The choir almost becomes the central instrument on Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land alongside guest vocals from Pegi Young and Stephen Stills. For a song that has been sung to death over the years and probably lost most of its original impact Young & Crazy Horse’s treatment brings it to life, stripping off the sepia tone coating and injecting it with technicolor. Reclamation at its finest.

Americana concludes with their take on God Save The Queen that retains a stately anthemic feel with its marching drums and backing vocals. Young explains in the liner notes that the song has its origins in the 17th century and was sung throughout the Commonwealth, including America prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This of course makes total sense in the context of Americana as a conceptual exercise and purely as melodic exercise it works wonderfully with Young’s guitar casting a sonic nod to Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner.

Americana reminds us how visceral, primitive and unique Crazy Horse are as a band when they are paired with Neil Young. Very few other artists could attempt to reclaim archaic traditional folk songs and pull it off so perfectly. If Greendale (the last album to feature Crazy Horse members) felt a little forced and contrived then Americana feels completely natural. Four men with guitars and drums, their voices and the essential ingredients of grit and simplicity as their tools. Crazy Horse rides again.

this review was first published on FasterLouder


WATCH: Neil Young & Crazy Horse | God Save The Queen

Neil Young & Crazy Horse have released the fourth video from their new LP Americana which is due to be released June 5th. God Save The Queen casts the English national anthem in a new light with backing choir and that iconic stomping Crazy Horse rhythm section. Though not as good as the first songs we’ve heard (ClementineOh Susannah and Jesus’ Chariot) it is still a damn sight better than the usual anthem fare.

WATCH: Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Oh Susannah [NEW]

Here it is, the first single from the brand new Neil Young & Crazy Horse LP Americana. The album is the band’s first since Greendale in 2003 and and their first with the full Crazy Horse line-up of Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro since the underwhelming Broken Arrow in 1996. The band sounds fresh and breathing new life into the classic folk song. You can hear Young talking up the groove and funkiness of the track at its conclusion.

Americana is out June 5th, click HERE to pre-order.