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Barn by Neil Young - CD Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 14th 2021
New Neil Young is always good Neil Young
That classic rock RSS feed…

I received an alert about an hour after the alert that told me of the passing of Michael Nesmith and two words came up – 'Neil Young'. My heart sank. Neil Young couldn't be… could he?

No. It was telling me his new album was about to go live. Thank goodness!

Barn by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (2021)
barn, cd, album, neil, young


I bought this by digital download. I could have ordered the CD and waited for a while because, yet again, no record shops had it. But then I read an interview where Neil Young or a member of the band said they'd recorded this on analogue tape because this was an album designed for vinyl, not compressed digital. That was no good. The last two times I ordered vinyl, the records came warped or broken. While I got my money back, it did mean I missed out on some good music. I will only buy vinyl in-store, and that is not currently an option. Therefore, I bought the lesser quality mp3 download, which I will replace as soon as I can.

This is most definitely a Neil Young & Crazy Horse album. It could not be by any other band. And that is a positive. It was apparently recorded in a nineteenth century barn in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (hence the name), and at the same time actress Darryl Hannah, Neil Young's current wife, made a documentary about the creation of the album (and she took the stunning cover photo). There are times when it feels like they stumble over the music and lyrics, as though these were first drafts of songs, but with the ability and experience of these men, that does not detract from the album; just the opposite – it gives it a sense of reality that you just do not get from much music today. The same interview I read before said they did minimal overdubs, that this was almost a live in the studio recording like the old days.

So, where does it stand? By weird coincidence, I finally found a copy of Sleeps With Angels (1994) to replace a worn-out cassette about a month ago. I have the strangest feeling that Neil Young has slipped into some sort of time stasis because this album and that one sound contemporaneous. In fact, Sleeps With Angels has a more pronounced production sheen about it; Barn has a more timeless quality.

This is folk-rock music at its finest, a genre that is often looked down upon nowadays, but when it's sung by the man dubbed 'the Grandfather of Grunge', there is nothing to complain about. A really good album.

Let's look at the tracks.

'Song Of The Seasons' We start off with something gentle and slow, a more typical folk feel, with harmonica and accordion, describing a natural setting that is beautiful, painting a word picture as the song goes on.

'Heading West' And then we hit that proto-grunge with driving distorted guitars and pounding drums, a song steeped in nostalgia, looking back on Young's early life. A stand-out track here.

'Change Ain't Never Gonna' There is something almost burlesque-sounding about the next track, with its piano and lazy harmonica. The lyrics are anti-modern world politics, wearing its green credentials on its sleeve, but that's okay. Young isn't a bandwagon-jumper; he's been singing about this for decades.

'Canerican' I can't decide if this is a serious song or not. It's about how Young is Canadian and United Estatian (apparently he took up US citizenship at some point this century). Musically fine, but not sure about its lyrics.

'Shape Of You' There is something about this song that just carried me along. There's a great piano line, and some wonderful lyrics – "I'm older now / but I'm still dreaming" – plus that Dylan-esque harmonica. It got me.



'They Might Be Lost' A slow story-song that brought to mind some of the tracks on Sleeps With Angels, though lacking the production of that album. Another strong track here.

'Human Race' Back to the heavier riffs. This time he's lamenting the future of the titular human race. This is a protest song and one that almost apologises to the kids for leaving them a terribly messed up world, but another highlight. That guitar work, though… Nice.

'Tumblin' Thru The Years' A pleasant love song. That's it, really. Very cool and led by a good little piano riff. The change in subject matter was a good one.

'Welcome Back' First, this track is eight and a half minutes long. Maybe a fraction too long, truth be told. However, it is still a good track. There is some amazing guitar throughout, like a slow blues jam in a smoky club somewhere. Not bad.



'Don't Forget Love' And we close out with another love song, this one probably a little more universal in its scope. A sweet way to finish, going back to the sparseness of the opening track.


So, that's Barn.

Is this a perfect album? No. Is it a good album? Yes. In his 70s, and Neil Young can still produce quality like this? This is amazing. I do lament the way recent acts do not live up to their predecessors a lot of the time; when those predecessors produce quality like this, it does make it hard for the modern musos.

But it's not the artists to blame. I would not have heard about this album if not for my RSS feed. Radio, TV video shows, etc. are not playing these tracks and this style of music and with everyone plugged in to the music services like Spotify who carefully curate songs based on no known algorithm and steal from artists, bands who play music like this just do not get a look in.

That's my New Year's Resolution for 2022 – pay more attention to the new music released on Bandcamp where you're more likely to hear music like this, and not the corporatised bland pop or paint by numbers big label music.

If I can find new bands even half as good as this, then it will be a win, because this is a glorious album. Yes, it is recommended.
neil, young, album, cd
Screen Cap taken from an online documentary about the making of the album.


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Why? Neil Young is a musical legend
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