Neil Young sets a ‘world record’ with new music album

One of the best things about being able to stream music is being able to go through an artist’s entire back catalog. I did this earlier this year with a number of artists, but one I didn’t expect to explore was Canadian guitarist Neil Young, the man behind songs like “Heart Of Gold,” “Old Man,” “Ohio” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Young released his second album of 2022 on November 18.

“World Record” is also the 45th album of new material Young has released in roughly the last five decades, featuring the rock band Crazy Horse. For the most part, Young’s albums with Crazy Horse are pretty chaotic and heavy, full of distortion and fury, so imagine my surprise with the lead single, “Love Earth,” a soft, catchy, piano-driven tune.

The most notable thing about this song is how clean the production is. It’s not a new sound for Young, as he often switches back and forth between soft country and hard rock, but it’s pretty fun to see his raging rock band sing songs about caring for the planet.

Texts like Love the Earth / Until the water and the air are clear / From the birds in the sky / To the fish deep in the sea aren’t entirely out of place on a Young album, as he’s been dealing with environmental themes for the past decade or so, but the band behind “Powderfinger” and “Down By The River” sound very out of place here. For the most part, the album doesn’t even sound like the Crazy Horse effort.

“Love Earth” is a soft, catchy, piano-driven tune. Photo courtesy of NeilYoungChannel / YouTube

Finally, with track three, “I Walk with You (Earth Ringtone),” we get some of that iconic Crazy Horse sound that continues to permeate many of the other tracks. Even then, the sound feels subdued and more layered by the band’s standards. For example, one of the rockers here is “The World (Is In Trouble Now)”. Amid the distortion, a very clear sound (perhaps an accordion) takes over the melody. It’s an interesting development for a band that has more or less sounded the same for the past 50 years.

The other thing Young sings about on the album is mortality as he settles into his autumn years. The second single, “Break the Chain,” which was promoted with a pretty terrible music video that looks like it was recorded via Google Meet, tackles this theme with lyrics like, “I’m gonna love every breath I take.” It has one of the most catchy melodies on the album and is certainly the best of the harder rock songs. While it’s nothing special, it’s still pretty solid.

“Break the chain

“Break The Chain” was promoted with a terrible music video that looks like it was recorded via Google Meet.
Photo courtesy of NeilYoungChannel / YouTube

In fact, it’s most of the album. None of these songs come close to being Young’s best, but overall this is the most coherent and consistent album he’s made in years. Nobody’s going to pick any of these songs over ‘Like a Hurricane’, for example, but for an artist in his mid-70s who’s been releasing material for over 50 years and has every right to retire whenever, ‘World Record ‘ is surprisingly strong.

The best part of the album, though, is how good Young’s voice is. Sure, his voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s a taste I’ve acquired. His voice was pretty raw on Barn, his latest album of all-new songs, but it’s restored here.

Any new material from one of the most prolific artists of his generation is worth a listen, and “World Record” does not disappoint. While it doesn’t have the same feel as some of his harder albums, it’s much more like his softer albums like ‘Harvest’ and makes for a delightful listen. “World Record” is his best all-new album since possibly 2010’s “Le Noise.”

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