Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young – Fork In The Road (2009)


If Neil Young is known for one thing, it’s that he does whatever the hell he wants, and he doesn’t care what anybody else thinks about it. And yet here I am as an amateur web critic trying to tell people what I think about it! Yeah, I’m living the tough life. Here is Neil Young’s 2009 album, filled with an assortment of ballads and chuggy rockers, and it doesn’t seem to have any overarching purpose or theme or drive to it. It’s a seemingly tossed-off album that he made for no other reason than he just felt like it. Inconsequential might be a good word for it, but I don’t think that inconsequential things are necessarily bad. Life is full of inconsequential things, and I rather like it. (I guess I should mention that the lyrics largely have to do with the government, the environment, the economy… You know, the typical old man Neil Young grumbling…)

I shouldn’t insinuate that Young just haphazardly tossed this off. All things considering, he was one of the hardest working people in rock ‘n’ roll in the late ’00s with his touring, the impressive string of archival releases, and his apparent family life. So it’s pretty commendable that still found the time to make another album, and it’s a pretty good one at that. Maybe one of the ballads could have been improved a mite, but you can’t go wrong when he just wants to chug along with his guitar for a bit, which is what he does for eight of these 10 tracks.

For my money, the most enjoyable song of the lot is “Fuel Line” with its tight, menacing riff and catchy melody. It’s an extremely simple, perhaps primitive rock ‘n’ roll song, but I can’t stop myself from tapping my foot when I’m listening to it. Therefore, I declare, it is a great song. “Just Singing a Song” seems to be hinting back to Young’s early ’90s grunge days except the distorted guitar is more smoother and dreamy as opposed to gritty. If he’s going to return to the grunge music in future releases, I hope he experiments more with this sound instead of the helicopter noises. I’m ***still*** sick of those helicopters.

The album closer “Fork in the Road” is a hoot from beginning to end. He’s using a riff that I’m sure Chuck Berry used except the guitars are a lot sloppier. Although I’m not completely appreciating the other obvious ’50s throwback in this album, “Get Behind the Wheel,” which for whatever reason comes off as more generic. Although that’s a fun song as well.

The only track I don’t like is the extremely slow and plodding ballad “Off the Road.” He only uses the minimal amount of instruments to orchestrate it, and the drum beat is so slow that it starts to get on my nerves. At least Young proves that he didn’t forget how to write ballads altogether with the lovely country number “Light a Candle.” Sure, it’s also a little uneventful and it seems weak compared to the stuff he gave us on Harvest Moon, but it’s a perfectly nice song and I enjoy listening to it.

Based on what I’ve been reading about Fork in the Road from other critics, I was expecting this to suck. Perhaps I haven’t been as gushy over all his supposedly great albums like Harvest or Freedom, so it maybe it makes sense that I would gravitate toward an album full of simple rock ‘n’ roll numbers. …Well, I ended up giving it the same rating that I gave Chrome Dreams II and Prairie Wind, but those deserved 11s for their distinguished accomplishments. Fork in the Road deserves an 11, because it’s fun listening to.

May 13, 2010 - Posted by | Neil Young Fork In The Road |

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