Neil Young Stripped Down

Elizabeth Doll, ’15, dolle@wittenberg.edu

 

During his decades-long career, Neil Young has released dozens of albums with various groups.  From his folk rock origins to collaborations with the Crazy Horse band and Crosby, Stills, and Nash to his recent political albums, Young has explored various genres. His newest album, “Storytone,” is very unique in that Young recorded an orchestral version of the CD, as well as a solo version on the deluxe edition of the CD.

While the orchestral version does sound more finished, at times it overpowers Young’s soft and somewhat delicate voice. Stripped down to just Young and a guitar, harmonica or piano, the solo version showcases his vocals more.

The album starts off with “Plastic Flowers,” a slow ballad that doesn’t really stand out too much, other than being a vague environmental song. However, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up,” the following song, does a much better job of that. With lyrics like “protect the land from the greed of man, take down the dams, stand up to oil, protect the plants and renew the soil,” Young calls people to action. He later sings, “this all starts with you and me.”

As an environmentalist, this song really stuck out to me. I think the lyrics and message were more meaningful to me than some of the other songs. That’s not to say the other songs aren’t meaningful, but I don’t have the same connection.

Songs such as “Like You Used To” are difficult to listen to without associating them with his recent divorce to wife Pegi, whom Young had a relationship with for over 30 years. “I couldn’t satisfy you, just couldn’t show you my love, but I kept on trying,” Young croons.

“Storytone” in general has a lot more ballads than listeners are used to hearing from the Canadian rocker. Whether you listen to the stripped-down solo version or the orchestral version, both come across as very soft and call back to Young’s folk rock roots with songs like “Sugar Mountain,” “After the Gold Rush” and “Tell My Why.”

This definitely is a far cry from “Rocking in the Free World” and “Hey Hey, My, My,” but it does have its own sound to it and is worth a listen. While not every song will be on frequent repeat, the CD overall is very cohesive and would make for a great soundtrack to a long drive on a country road.

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