Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Americana
This is a gloriously raggedy album. Take the opener ‘Oh Susanna’. It begins with the band sounding like they’re playing three different songs. Then one of the backing singers comes in too early. And at the first chorus they all stop way too late. But just at that moment it hits a great groove. And stays there. ‘Tom Dula’ works out exactly the same. At 8 minutes, it’s the nearest the band come to the feeling that’s all over Ragged Glory or, better still, the first three tracks from Broken Arrow. “It’s all one song” someone from the audience shouts, frustrated, on The Year of the Horse. Darn Right. You got it. And yet, Americana doesn’t go to that place quite often enough. The covers that work the best are the ones that sound like Neil Young could have written them. ‘Oh Susanna’ and ‘Tom Dula’ stand out. ‘Wayfarin’ Stranger’ sounds right out of Prairie Wind. ‘Travel On’ is pure International Harvesters-era Neil Young. ‘High Flyin’ Bird’ nearly gets there, but the band haven’t quite figured it out yet. If they play it live in the next few months, then it’ll be as good as those great Jefferson Airplane versions from 1966 and 1967. In the end, what lets Americana down slightly is the song choice. There’s nothing that even Neil Young can do with ‘She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain’, apart from give it the title ‘Jesus’ Chariot’. The same goes for (Oh My Darling) ‘Clementine’. And as for ‘God Save The Queen’. The album might have been released on the right weekend for it, but it’s a true abomination. Which is a shame, because much of Americana is a great introduction to what’s great about Neil Young. He’s at his best when he’s most raggedy. And at times here, he’s certainly at his best.