There are problems in the performance and production of the album, however. I'm sure I'll talk about this more in future posts, but I love Neil's voice despite the fact that he is not what you would traditionally consider a good singer. But like Bob Dylan before him and Kurt Cobain after, he knows how to write for his offbeat vocal style, and how to use his voice as a powerful expressive tool. He can kick your ass to the curb on a hard rocker, and he can wrench your soul on one of his ballads. The problem with Neil Young is that it sounds like he's holding back on a lot of the tracks; he's best when he gives it 110%, really belting that shit out, and here it's more like he's trying to be tastefully understated. It's kind of dull.
Later in his career, Neil will make some serious, often successful experiments in the production of his albums. Here, he overdoes it in a few places. The worst is "The Old Laughing Lady," which piles on shuffling drums, organs, soulful back-up singers and funky bass over what should be a stripped down acoustic song and turns it into a big mess. I never liked the song, until years later I heard a solo acoustic performance of it and realized how powerful the songwriting was. This is true of a few other songs on this album, and will actually turn into something of a trend in his career: songs improving when he reworks them for live performances.
Enough with the negative, there are still several places on the album where all these elements come together perfectly, and you get a no-shit-for-real great song like "I've Been Waiting For You," which jazzes up a haunting tune with some slick, well-layered (maybe vaguely trippy?) production. I don't spin this one as much as the classic Neil albums that were soon coming, but I've probably underrated it in the past.
Rating: C+, great things are coming soon.