Album Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse ‘Americana’
By the end of the opening track it’s clear that Neil Young & Crazy Horse came to recording Americana from the purest perspective: that of just wanting to hang out and play some music. Every song on the album has the sound of a jam session among old friends, down to its live and raw quality, and if these guys are old friends of yours you should be appropriately pleased with the results.
The title Americana comes from the fact that these are all covers of classic American songs, but it’s not necessarily an ode to the United States from a man born Canadian. These aren’t radio classics, but songs older than popular music, campfire singalongs such as Crazy Horse’s take on ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ or ‘Clementine’. While the band clearly enjoys playing them, Neil is also making a fairly blatant point with each song selection, and in particular with the way he adds to, omits from, or reshapes the songs. It’s not a strongly political record, and you can certainly sing along to it gleefully ignorant to any point being attempted.
The choir on “This Land Is Your Land” and the straightforward arrangement are an example of how bad this album could have been, but luckily most of the songs are transformed to a much greater degree, and with a lot less cheese. It’s great classic rock with the grungy accent you would expect from Crazy Horse. ‘Tom Dula’ in particular is fantastically well done, even though it runs a little long.
The live, jam-session approach to recording imbues the album with a lot of charm, but it also means there are tons of imperfections on proud display, which may turn off some listeners. The album is absolutely better off this way, with a relaxed and cool vibe, and a bit of chatter among the band between songs.
The record ends with a slightly weird cover of ‘God Save the Queen’, transitioning at the end into ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’, which I’m pretty sure means the song was chosen almost exclusively to make the point that America lifted one of its anthems from the English. At times this can seem like a very odd and sarcastic album.
Americana wants to be more than what it is, which is a playful, and largely unremarkable album. It amounts to little more than a group of old buddies hanging out singing campfire tunes, and I’d imagine drinking heavily. If you read that as a positive point, you should check it out.
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Image Courtesy of Reprise