Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Mirrorball (1995)


Yet another great Neil Young album, one that has become quite underrated over the years in my opinion, this is perhaps his heaviest studio effort ever. Backed up by members of Pearl Jam (though Epic wouldn’t let the name “Pearl Jam” appear on the album) and recorded by their producer Brendan O’Brien, this album reveals both of their strengths, as Pearl Jam provides Young with dark, powerful backing without drowning him out.

Pearl Jam delivers tight playing, tons of energy, and an appealingly thick and muscular sound, while Young more than holds his own, writing some great if hurriedly written songs and battling the young bucks with his still-lethal guitar runs. Although the album was rushed (supposedly it was recorded in a mere four days) and many of the songs are therefore unpolished, I disagree with the common complaints that these aren’t well-written and well-recorded songs, and besides, it is the very raw immediacy and spontaneity of these explosive performances that makes this collection so consistently thrilling despite its flaws.

Yeah, perhaps some of these songs sound alike after a while, but I for one am completely intoxicated by the mad sailor chants of “Song X,” the catchy yet rocking “The Act Of Love” (both of these are anti-abortion songs), and the riveting “Peace And Love,” on which Eddie Vedder briefly makes his brooding presence felt (those searing guitar riffs don’t hurt either).

Elsewhere, “Big Green Country” and the anthemic “Throw Your Hatred Down” have good brisk grooves and more great guitar, “Truth Be Known” is more power ballad-y but is still quite good due to its soaring guitar crescendos, and the intense 9-minute “Scenery” stands out for being arguably the album’s best extended guitar extravaganza. Unfortunately, probably my least favorite song here, the more upbeat hippy ode “Downtown,” which is unrepresentative of the rest of the album, was released as the single, so this album never caught on like it should have.

There are also a couple of short but sweet mellow pieces that let you come up for air, but only briefly. Neil Young states in the excellent, epic groover “I am The Ocean” (arguably the album’s best song which like some others here makes excellent use of atmospheric pump organ), “people my age, they don’t do the things I do.” That’s for sure, and once I was caught up in the relentless wave of that masterful song I could only feel very grateful for that fact.

Note: Around this time Neil Young and Pearl Jam also joined forces on “Long Road” and “I Got Id,” both of which appear on Pearl Jam’s Merkin Ball two-song EP.

March 13, 2013 - Posted by | Neil Young Mirrorball |

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