Neil Young's Letter Home

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 12:13 04/06/2014

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.

Neil Young - A Letter Home

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.

Blog on the Tracks is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts

Comments

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content