Neil Young – Silver & Gold

Album Review by Mark Bayross

Incredibly, this is Neil Young’s 29th album. The singer-songwriter is recognised as one of rock’s most influential artists, and his solo career has spanned feedback-drenched guitar epics with Crazy Horse and rootsy country and western, as on 1972’s HARVEST and its sequel HARVEST MOON 20 years later, not to mention his recordings with Crosby, Stills and Nash.

SILVER AND GOLD revisits this country mood, each song drenched in harmonica and pedal steel guitar (the latter courtesy of co-producer Ben Keith). Tunes are sketched out with light cymbal-heavy drums and Neil Young’s high-pitched whine, creating delicate sepia-tinged snapshots of America’s vast open plains.

As if to push this point even further, THE GREAT DIVIDE compares the wide open spaces of a failing relationship with lonely souls wandering through the “canyons of the great divide”. This melancholy pervades most of the album: the piano and heartbroken vocals of HORSESHOE MAN and the reflective DISTANT CAMERA, where he sings of his desperate attempt to hang on to his love while the world changes around him and life is “a photograph fading in the mirror”.

It’s not all about crying into your bourbon, though. BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AGAIN is a playful take on Young’s time spent playing in the classic band of that name and how he looks back on those times with affection: “Used to play in a rock & roll band / But they broke up / We were young and we were wild / It ate us up”.

The theme of love dominates the album: lamenting losing it; trying desperately to hang onto it; and, at times, celebrating having it. The title track and RAZOR LOVE are cases in point: “I got faith in you / It’s a razor love that cuts clean through”; and “Our kind of love never seems to get old… / It’s better than silver and gold”.

You can forgive the occasional country cliché – the Emmylou Harris duet (RED SUN), the rather dog-eared references to “corduroy pants and an old plaid shirt” (DADDY WENT WALKIN’) – especially when you hear the delicate brilliance of the closing track, WITHOUT RINGS.

Now, I am not a fan of this kind of music, but this album does actually speak to me. Some lines just ring true – how many of us have thought at one time, “My software’s not compatible with you”?

I’m not going to start wearing dungarees and driving a truck just yet, but, if ever I do, I’m sure I’ll be able to listen to this album and nod knowingly to myself.

4 stars

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