Saturday, 14 September 2019

Neil Young - Freedom (1989)

Send me a cheeseburger and a new "Rolling Stone"....

  

Released on 2 October 1989

Running time 61.11

This is, for me, one of Neil Young's finest albums. The tracks were sourced from a variety of aborted previous projects and are out together to make a long album (for 1989) of over an hour's music. It is simply a great rock album, full of all sorts of influences - rock, folk, Americana, Tex-Mex, soul -  and delivered by a confident, wordly-wise and prophetic-sounding Young, backed by a great collection of musicians.

TRACK LISTING

1. Rockin' In The Free World (live acoustic version)
2. Crime In The City (Sixty To Zero Part 1)
3. Don't Cry
4. Hangin' On A Limb
5. El Dorado
6. The Ways Of Love
7. Someday
8. On Broadway
9. Wrecking Ball
10. No More
11. Too Far Gone
12. Rockin' In The Free World                               
The album kicks off with a live acoustic version of the rack that ends it - Rockin' In The Free World. It contains a superb Dylanesque harmonica solo from Young. The song fades out with the audience singing away.

A real highlight in Young's career is up next - eight minutes of cinematic glory in Crime In The City (Sixty To Zero Part 1). It is very, very Bob Dylan-influence, even down to the "they can't get no relief" All Along The Watchtower lyric. It's not just that, though, it is the whole structure, the delivery, the sound, the lyrics, the ambience. "Send me a cheesburger and a new "Rolling Stone"..." is a great line too. There is some wonderful Mark Knopfler-style guitar throughout the track and some excellent saxophone too. The song is truly wonderful, I have to say and Young out-Dylans Dylan. Check out that great bass/percussion bit around six minutes in as well.

Don't Cry is a slow-burning plaintive number more in keeping with Young's recognisable style over the years, the same can be said of the gentle, acoustic, airy strains of Hangin' On A Limb, which has some America-style harmonies and backing vocals from Linda Ronstadt. It is a beautiful song and has a quiet, lilting melody that stays in your head.

El Dorado is an attractive, Mexican-influenced piece of slow bluesy rock, complete with castanets and lyrics about "mission bells", "señoritas" , "Tijuana" and "Mariachi bands". It contains more of that Knopfler-esque guitar and a deep, infectious bass line. Listening to it is six minutes well spent.

The Ways Of Love is a return to an acoustic sound, on a song that has a sort of waltz beat to it and a bit of country twang to its guitar sound. There is a nice harmonica near the end. Someday has a piano intro that reminds me somewhat of a slowed-down version of The Bangles' Manic Monday intro. It breaks out into a stately, mid-pace rock beat backed up by some insistent "chain gang"-style male backing vocals. It is another of my favourites on the album. The saxophone solo part is positively E St. Band, particularly when you hear the accompanying piano and drum sound too.


You may imagine The Drifters' On Broadway would not be an automatic choice for Young to cover, but he does it really well, giving it a big chugging rock beat and some searing guitar throughout. It's great. Young's vocal is surprisingly impressive too. He sounds like he's really loving it when he sings "I can play this here guitar" and launches into a huge grungy solo. Who would have thought The Drifters could go grunge?

Wrecking Ball was written a long time before the Bruce Springsteen track of the same name. Young's song is a fetching, tender rock ballad, with a nice, deep bass and drum rhythm and a wistful vocal from Young.

Talking of nice bass, No More has a delicious line, together with some upbeat drums and bluesy rock guitar. It is an appealing slice of catchy mid-pace, melodious rock.

Too Far Gone is a delightful country rock ballad featuring an impressive guitar solo. The studio version of Rockin' In The Free World is robust and rocks big, as you would expect. It is one of Young's best rockers, overflowing with riffs and pounding drums. Listen to that solo near the end - quality, just a pity it suddenly fades out.

This is a varied, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable album from beginning to end. There is not a bad track on it.

Below is a clip of Young and Crazy Horse doing Rockin' In The Free World in 1991.


B+