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Album Review: Neil Young and Crazy Horse ‘Psychedelic Pill’

Neil Young and Crazy Horse have been busy. After an almost ten year stretch of silence left fans in a state of withdrawal, the band has pushed out a pair of new concoctions in just one year, with the latest fix coming in the form of a Psychedelic Pill.

Where Americana was a good, but humble tribute album, Psychedelic Pill is a relative dose of extravagance. They haven’t brought in an orchestra or a hot young producer. Everything Neil Young and the Horse have to offer is laid out on the table here, in all of the intentionally under-produced glory of an amazing jam session you have been invited to sit in on. These songs are also all new, whereas the earlier record was made up entirely of covers.

Psychedelic Pill has been released as a double album, but don’t expect a sprawling collection of tracks. There are actually only eight songs here, but three of them are more than 15 minutes long and one almost hits the half-hour mark. This is the opening track no less, proving if nothing else that these guys aren’t afraid to alienate or weed out the nonbelievers.

The opening track is a 26-minute jam session, “Drifting Back”, which holds up to the fuzzy experimentation of the past forty-odd years. It’s a song to be repeated with a joint in one hand and a yearbook in the other. Young is all over the map here, as the music drifts in and out of consciousness and melancholy. He offers his opinions on things as disparate as modern hairstyles and the quality of digital music.

It’s a very nostalgic record, where Neil looks back on his life and on the music which inspired him. He fondly reflects on growing up in Ontario, as well as the first time he ever listened to “Like a Rolling Stone”, lamenting the lost opportunity of the 60s when he believes his generation could have changed the world. They start to sound like a bunch of old guys in these messages, but not their music. When one stops to think about it, the former point is probably proof that they are as young at heart as they ever were.

This is Neil Young in his purest form. It sounds like a real garage record with just the right mix of a strained vocal and feedback from the guitar, but all of it is carried by real melodies and riffs that please and elicit strong emotional responses. It sounds fantastic.

When the album’s 87 minutes are through, this is one of the best records Neil Young and Crazy Horse have ever put out. There is so much here to explore and get lost in that it should hold up to the test of time as admirably as any of their past work. More importantly, I believe it’s music that is relevant today and will appeal to a broad audience. You can probably expect to hear a lot of younger hipsters singing its praises for some time.

Release Date: November 13, 2012
Image Courtesy of Reprise

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