Neil Young’s 2010s output is going to rival his 1980s for being wilful, stubborn, stylistically diverse – and “non-representative”. The gap is widening between the truly great Neil Young albums too. But you think he gives a fuck? Or ever has for that matter? Right now he loves Daryl Hannah, and The Promise of The Real, and singing songs that are slightly politically charged. And it’s made for some good albums – but nothing great.
And it follows on from the previous year’s Peace Trail (which was quite strong, on reflection). The Visitor is similar to Freedom in that it’s not just a rock album and not merely Neil in folkie-mode; he moves between the acoustic balladry and slightly more charged rockers here. Almost Always could have been on Harvest Moon for example, it’s a slight rewrite of nearly half-a-dozen Neil songs, most overtly From Hank To Hendrix.
And the opener, Already Great, is one of a few ripostes to Trump and his slogans – so it’s a bit Living With War in that regard.
Neil’s vocal delivery here is great. He really believes this shit – bonkers as some of it is (Stand Tall) and that’s just to be admired. Or ignored. Depending on your level of fandom. Remember, this note’s not for you – it’s for Neil. That’s how it’s almost always been.
The band sits nicely in a country-swaying soft-groove on Change of Heart, which is ultimately filler-fodder, but not without charm. The album never quite fires hard though. There are long songs – Carnival, Forever – that don’t do a whole lot, that don’t need to be 8 and 10 minutes long respectively. And there are one or two real duds here – like Children of Destiny – which takes you back, unfortunately, to Are You Passionate? And Storytone. That sort of shit…
But the last thing I want from a 72-year-old Neil Young is to have him slow down in any way. I’m welcoming it all.
The Visitor is better than Monsanto, not as good as Peace Trail, and about to be replaced by a brand new movie soundtrack album, more archival material and who knows what else. While it’s here, in view, in earshot, I’m finding moments within it that are good enough. And that’s always just fine. It’s not like we’ll have to wait too long for anything else from Neil.
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