Thursday, June 24, 2010

Road Rock Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives

The first sign that this isn't a superlative Neil Young live album on par with Live Rust or Weld is that Neil has never released a Vol. 2. Part of the problem is that, similar to Year of the Horse, there's a little too much fat (the 18-minute version of "Cowgirl in the Sand" doesn't really justify its length). But the real problem is that it lacks too many of the things that make the best Neil live albums so good.

Yes, there are a few pleasantly unexpected song choices ("Walk On" and "Peace of Mind"), an enjoyable previously unreleased song ("Fool For Your Love," which sounds vaguely Everybody's Rockin'-esque), and an absolutely great performance of "Tonight's the Night" (but, come on, this has to be like the 4th great live version of that song he's released).The performances collected here are more good than bad. What Neil doesn't do is deliver any reworked versions of classic songs, or pluck any overlooked or mediocre songs from his discography and imbue them with a new energy that makes you reconsider your original feelings about them. Worse, the version of "Motorcycle Mama" here makes me think I've probably overrated it previously, despite not being that crazy about it in the first place.

I still maybe have a moderately favorable opinion of most of Road Rock, but its biggest disappointment is its main event, an 8-minute version of "All Along the Watchtower" (done in the style of Jimi Hendrix's famous cover version, and not the Bob Dylan original) with The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde on guest vocals. On paper, that sounds like something I should absolutely love, but its sadly underwhelming. This past weekend, I listened to Hendrix's Are You Experienced? for the first time in years, and its obvious that his guitar style was hugely influential on Neil. Problem is, Neil is not a notably gifted guitarist on a technical level, while Hendrix had more chops than a kung fu fight in a butcher shop. I'm sure it was meant in tribute, but by playing a song so closely associated with a genius like Hendrix, it works to highlight Neil's weaknesses.

Rating: C +


Long time reader, first time commenter said...

That may be my favorite metaphor you have yet made in your life, "more chops than a kung fu fight in a butcher shop." I'd like to see more of those clever turns-of-phrase on this blog (if you are accepting suggestions in your suggestion box from readers).

Dan said...

LTRFTC, if I was any good at writing them, I'd do them more often.

LTRFTC said...

Maybe get your girlfriend to help. She seems smart.