Friday, June 11, 2010

Year of the Horse (with Crazy Horse)

"They all sound the same... it's all one song," says Neil right at the beginning of Year of the Horse, a live album/soundtrack to the (reportedly terrible) Crazy Horse documentary helmed by Jim Jarmusch. It's a fitting opening, as this album suffers from indulging in many of the group's worst tendencies: bloated, shapeless improvisations and repetitiveness. I've been repeatedly on the record as enjoying the Horse's endless jam sessions; I'm not just talking about length here. The 13-minute "Danger Bird" on this album is a worthwhile addition. But some songs are worthy of the Horse treatment, and some aren't. "Barstool Blues," "Sedan Delivery," "Slip Away" and "Big Time" exponentially depreciate with each additional minute Neil & friends insert into them. The worst is a butchering of "Prisoners of Rock 'n Roll" (here just called "Prisoners" for some reason), a goofy song from Life that I always loved that clearly should not be stretched out to 7 minutes. It devolves into a shapeless, irritating wank-fest where everyone seems to be playing whatever they please without any consideration to what the other musicians are playing. (Neil comes off as weirdly proud of this fact, proclaiming at the end that you could "smell the Horse on that one!")

What somewhat redeems Year of the Horse is its offbeat track selection; it provides live versions of some excellent, underrepresented Neil Young songs like "When Your Lonely Heart Breaks" and "Scattered," and some effectively reworked versions of some songs, like a way laid-back "Human Highway," an electric version of "Pocahontas," and (making what must be its 5 millionth appearance on a Neil album) "Mr. Soul" done as acoustic blues rock.

Rating: C. Some worthwhile cuts, but a lot of meandering crap. Stick with Weld if you want a good latter-day Crazy Horse live album.

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