Neil Young + Promise of the Real – Earth

Neil Young + Promise of the Real – Earth

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Promise of the Real have given Neil Young a new lease of life. After the rather stilted orchestral outing that was Storytone, Canada’s greatest export since beaver fur has been re-energised by his collaboration with Lukas Nelson + the band. The combination seems to work best live. This 98-minute-long collection comes from the recent US shows. Perhaps it’s the bass, but there’s a bounciness to the live sets that hasn’t been present for a while. Here, the version of ‘Love and Only Love’ is the best example. It’s full-on danceworthy for at least the first 10 of its 28 minutes. The song selection has also been revelatory. The Old Man of the Canyons has always been ready to blow the dust off classic tracks and take them for a spin, but the Rebel Content tours have seen the return of some long-lost friends. Here, we’re treated to ‘Vampire Blues’ and ‘Western Hero’, both of which had only ever been played live once before in 1974 and 1995 respectively. There’s also a version of ‘Hippie Dream’, which hadn’t been performed since 1997, and ‘Country Home’, which had been played on only a few occasions since about the same time. Along with songs from The Monsanto Years, this is a really nice setlist, even if the inclusion of ‘Time Fades Away’ or ‘Alabama’, would have been the ultimate treat. But this is a Neil Young album. And befitting his recent mindset, there’s more than a little quirkiness to the production as well. Backing vocals have been overdubbed and a selection of animal sounds and other earthly noises have been added to the mix. We’re treated to bees, frogs, crows, turkeys, and not just between the tracks, but sometimes in the middle of them too. It’s all a little strange and unnecessary. But it doesn’t spoil things. In the end, Earth doesn’t quite recapture the thrilling live experience of the Promise of the Real tours. We’ll have to wait for an Archives version for that. But it’s a more than worthy document of yet another exciting period in Neil Young’s long and unique career.

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