Neil Young & Promise Of The Real

Reprise Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It's more the execution than the concept behind Neil Young's latest effort that reduced it to a lesser effort in his catalog.

The concept is the album's title, and so Young digs into his catalog both new and old to find 13 songs related to ecology, the environment, and man's abuse of our beautiful resources. The topic is perfectly in Young's socially conscious wheelhouse and dovetails nicely with his most recent studio album The Monsanto Years, which also could have been called Earth, such was the lyrical conceit therein.

So if you're an ecology nut who goes green or has any sort of sympathy toward that movement – or, are a human being who enjoys mountains and sunsets and forests more than strip malls – many of these songs will speak to you. The problem is, they don't really speak in any way that Young hasn't already spoken time after time after time. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Arc-Weld this isn't.

Promise Of The Real hews pretty close to Crazy Horse, playing Young's songs with a simple amplified lurch or a classic folk sound as needed. If you didn't know the band name under the marquee, you would assume it was Crazy Horse, such is the similarity. Moreover, Young's songs have always been pretty much live-sounding anyway ("Rockin' In The Free World" and "Hey Hey My My" spring to mind), which makes his live albums fairly redundant to begin with. So if this was simply of the mediocre Monsanto Years and a couple of oldies ("After The Gold Rush" and "Love And Only Love" get unearthed, and both are highlights for longtime fans), it would be passable at best. 

But then things get weird. Not content to have songs that fit a theme, Young goes one step further by adding nature sound effects between and to the songs, then toning down the crowd noise. So you'll have a lurching proto-grunge song, followed by some birds chirping and a moo, then another song, then the sound of wind and insects, then something called "My Country Home," then some whale and monkey cries, and so forth for 98 minutes. It's a little weird at first but quickly becomes tiresome, and I can't imagine anyone clamoring for, say, this version of "Vampire Blues" when they can hear it on On The Beach without wildlife sound effects. 

The end result is a solid Neil Young live album with a twist so eccentric that only big fans and Rolling Stone editors will find necessary. Unless you're either of those, there's not much reason to pick this one up, although if you do, the 20-minute sprawl of "Love And Only Love" is one hell of a way to close the set, showing Young has lost none of his social or guitar fire.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2016 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise Records, and is used for informational purposes only.