Classic Rock Review

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Neil Young’s Fork in the Road, review: Pop CD of the week (2009)

From The Daily Telegraph

Neil Young is all set to be this summer’s answer to Leonard Cohen, the heritage rocker everyone’s talking about. As well as headlining Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight Festival and Hyde Park Calling, the Canadian legend has also hinted that his long-promised, career-spanning box set of unreleased tracks, Archives, may finally be released in June. And now to top it all, a new album.

Young’s contemporary work has been less warmly received than Bob Dylan’s, but with 2006’s Living With War, when he attacked US foreign policy, quickly followed by Chrome Dreams II, the heightened political atmosphere of late seems to have revitalised Young’s songwriting muse.

Fork in the Road, which was recorded quickly, just before Christmas, is loosely Young’s response to the global economic crisis, with frequent cross-references to climate change and America’s ailing car industry.

Given its apparently spontaneous creation, it has the fuzzy, ragged, garage-rock feel of all his best music.

There is a palpable sense of urgency throughout. Johnny Magic, Young’s first single in many years, is rollickingly upbeat, way beyond his familiar, easy-rocking comfort zone. Befitting the automotive subject matter, songs like Get Behind the Wheel superbly revamp old-school, blues-based rock-and-roll, rough and unvarnished.

Much of the time, Young, the most American of non-Americans, glories in the noble pursuit of driving. In short, he wants cars to keep being made, but with greater eco-awareness. On the closing title track, he rails against the banks: “There’s a bail?out coming, but it’s not for you,” he whines, “it’s for all those creeps hiding what they do”.

Three tracks in, Young sneers the line, “Just singing a song won’t change the world”. As a rocker of Sixties vintage, he clearly believes otherwise. The fact that the songs in question are terrific will certainly help his cause.

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May 14, 2010 - Posted by | Neil Young Fork In The Road |

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