Neil Young has ensured the sound quality of his latest release, The Times, by making it only available as part of his Neil Young Archives website or Amazon Music HD. You can listen in to the record via the player below. While we’re not sure there’s a huge degree of improvement on the sound front, the recordings capture a singer securing his legend status.
It’s hard to be a rock star these days, even reading the words ‘rock star’ is difficult to deal with, but Neil Young certainly is one. Forged in the creative peak of the genre in the sixties, Young’s narrative songs and unique vocal made him one of the most engrossing artists of the 20th Century and now he’s proving that his sound is as timeless as ever. The fact that he’s doing it all on his own, using lockdown as a means of gathering an audience around the campfire via his Fireside Session videos for a rendition of some potent tracks, and somehow still capture the mood of the people from isolation is truly impressive.
This collection of tracks comes from one of his more recent Fireside Sessions in July named ‘Porch Episode’. It’s a special session as it included Young’s updated version of ‘Lookin’ For A Leader 2020′, which naturally added in a very thinly-veiled attack on Donald Trump and his administration amid the worsening political climate in the US. It’s also notable for his cover of a Bob Dylan classic.
Perhaps the best moment of the EP is the performance of Bob Dylan’s iconic song ‘The Times They Are A-Changin”, a song from which Young borrowed the name for the EP. The two have shared stages and microphones throughout their career. It’s a particularly poignant song when sung with such desperate hope. Young, a man who has lived through a lot in his life, is keen to ensure that he continues living in a much nicer place to be. Though there’s certainly fight in Young’s delivery it is tinged with a sigh of resignation.
In the record, there are some other moments selected from across Young’s varied career. As well as the brilliant ‘Ohio’ there is also the quite sumptuous ‘Alabama’, a record that has gone on to define a lot of Young’s sound. Other performances include ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Campaigner’ providing a good breadth of material from Young’s vast back-catalogue.
There’s even room for the recently released 1974 album Homegrown effort ‘Little Wing’ which sweetens the deal. As well as being released via AMHD, the ‘Porch Episode’ is now streaming in full on Prime Video.
Obviously, if you’re looking for a brand new Neil Young album, then this isn’t it. Most of the performances are meant to be heard within the moment, so it doesn’t really match his usual high standards. But this is a collection of tracks that Young has gathered for our enjoyment and our engagement, not necessarily our artistic critique. However, if you’re looking for a snapshot of the kind of ‘rock star’ you want your favourite to turn out to be, then Neil Young’s The Times is perfect for you.