Saturday, November 17, 2012

Psychedelic Pill, by Neil Young with Crazy Horse

Rock along with the blog - in vinyl, CD, or (don't tell Neil) mp3

I may not be a musician, but as an artist of a different medium, I have the utmost respect for Neil Young. (If you're not new to the blog, or to me, you know that already.) 2012 is turning out to be a banner year of sorts; although I had to miss his August tour opener in my hometown, I now have two new albums with Crazy Horse (the first since 2003) and a book in less than six months. I'm feeling pretty pleased.

While I find much to admire in Mr. Young's artistic principles and much to enjoy and inspire me in his music, where he earns my greatest respect is in his ability to stay relevant. Fortunately for his commercial success, that relevance correlates with a shared relevance for thousands of fans. What I mean by his relevance, however, is his relevance to himself.

How many rock-and-rollers can you think of who haven't performed a new song in ten years? Twenty? Thirty? And how many musicians of even twenty years' vintage can you think of who still tour to support new albums, not as an excuse to play the hits from the past, but simply because that new music is where their souls are happiest and their muses are engaged?

Mr. Young, as far as I can tell, doesn't put out new material because his fans want it. And he doesn't base his concert setlists on what the average radio listener expects to hear. (I've been to shows on at least three Neil Young tours where people walked out because the music didn't match their expectations.) Commercially viable or artistically shaky, the music he plays is the music that means something to him at that moment in his world.

That commitment to his own artistic morals is how he can release an album like Psychedelic Pill. It reminisces, but without nostalgia. It mourns, but with hope. It looks over its shoulder, but always while stepping forward.

This is where Neil Young is right now, folks. Of all the writers and musicians and craftsmen and painters whose work I have experienced, he's the artist with the least artifice. Love his stuff or despise it, you can't fault his honesty for being straightforward. I aspire to be that true to myself, to my writing... hell, to my life.

(Also: I appreciate this album more every time I listen to it. If you have even the slightest inclination to like Neil with the Horse, you must. get. this. album.)

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