Neil Young's Letter Home

00:13, Jun 04 2014

Have you heard the new Neil Young album? What do you make of it? It's a set of covers - recorded via the gimmick of an old Voice-O-Graph (restored and owned by Jack White). I don't think the album stands up away from the gimmick.

Neil Young's mischievous streak - and his contrarian streak - has him running around the late-night talk-show circuit with this side-show recording-booth and his new best pal Jack; has him singing his favourite old folk songs - and his newly-created faux dusty-ole-versions of singer/songwriter fare. Some of the songs are great - I'd like to hear "proper" recordings/renditions.

But Neil's latest solo album, A Letter Home, just seems like a silly gimmick to me - an intentionally not-quite-real side-step. I like that Neil does things like this - I just don't care much for the end result this time around.

He'll keep moving - of course. He'll be back on The Horse or there'll be a new set of solo recordings - original songs rather than covers; there's always material from his Archives series to ready.

My issue with A Letter Home is the faux-authenticity and faux-sincerity of it.

I can deal with Neil Young's contrarian streak - and in this case the irony of him pushing this while previously talking up the Pono; the need for quality digital sound.


I'm not so sure I can deal with Neil Young's mischievous streak. It's always a worry - as I said in my review of the album - when Neil Young is smirking. His self-conscious attempts to be arty, dramatic - and for that matter cinematic - always bring tones of embarrassment.

Neil Young's career is one I've followed for the missteps as well as the highlights. The way he can pull from an album like Re*ac*tor  - some 30+ years after it was released, after it was forgotten about - and find a new concert highlight; that's a part of what keeps Neil Young interesting.

But I can't get on board with A Letter Home. It has one or two nice versions; the album is (mostly) made up of songs where you (mostly) can't go wrong. But they cannot transcend the gimmick.

I'm worried that in this age of phoned-in nostalgia and fake-sincerity he'll be forgiven for what is really a pretty ugly, silly, pointless gesture. No, forgiven is not the issue - he deserves to be forgiven, just as A Letter Home should be forgotten. The worry is he will be celebrated - for "trying something new", for "being bold", for "taking a risk". 
A Letter Home is not that clever.

Here's my review of the album.

What did you think of it? Or does the album - and the sound of it, the way it's been made - not interest you at all.

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