Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Re•Ac•Tor

Another year, another Neil Young album. In 1981 Young once again reconvened the Horse for a bunch of rousing electric jams. Remember what I wrote about Zuma? About Crazy Horse becoming a comfort zone for Young when he doesn't feel like taking any risks? Re•Ac•Tor is where that trend reaches its nadir.

It's the final album on a contract with a label Young would subsequently leave, and man, it shows. Even the album art is uninspired. Whereas Hawks & Doves at least had Young trying on a new persona, Re•Ac•Tor is old news, start to finish.

The album opens with Young poking fun at his own singing voice in "Opera Star": "You were born to rock/You'll never be an opera star". Cute, but kind of forgettable. Which in a way, makes it a perfect opener in that it sets the table for the rest of the album.

Song after song drifts by, none leaving much of an impression. There are no interludes, no outside musicians, just Neil and the Horse rocking away on every track. Even the Horse sound tired and bored. On a pair of longer numbers they hardly vary at all over the course of nine minutes or so. Young could just as easily have taped the band riffing for about thrity seconds, then jammed over a loop to his heart's content; it wouldn't have sounded much different. "T-Bone" at least has some interesting guitar effects (someone gave Young a flanger for Christmas, apparently) to distinguish it, but the pointless lyrics make clear the track is a throwaway. "Shots" has some cool gunfire sound effects and a haunting message, but again the endless riffing goes nowhere.

I had to post something, and the rhythm on "Southern Pacific" is kind of infectious, so that one gets the call. It's actually a pretty good song, but it's the type of song that would be a lesser number on a better Young album, the kind you could point to and say, "Wow, even the filler is good on this album." When it's one of the best songs on the record you're not looking at a very good record. It's telling that none of these songs ever turn up in Young's later set lists.

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Southern Pacific"

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