Neil Young warms hearts but not the planet with ‘World Record’ pantheist

Always so committed, the “Loner” and his Crazy Horse return with a brilliant folk rock story, recalling what Mother Nature brings us and the importance of letting her breathe.

It’s decidedly hard to forget the existence of Neil Young, who at 77 is more active than most rappers who might be his grandsons. Besides the bootlegs and other unreleased records that he regularly pulls out of his drawers (the last, Toast, was released last July), he goes to the studio as soon as he has five minutes. Thereby, after a Barn ultra-woody published in December 2021Neil Young is already back with his 42e album, World Record. And does not change its activist habits, narrative framework of the ten songs gathered here around an Earth massacred by capitalism and individualism.

These ballads of a Wild West that must be reconquered are inaugurated with the folk of Love Earth, almost jovial and nevertheless nostalgic, accompanied by a piano of ragtime obedience. The tone asserts itself on overhead, the harmonica resonates, the rock’n’roll soil throbs again, and more on the guitars heavy of the following title, I Walk with You (Earth Ringtone). Recorded live in Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu, World Record shines with the simplicity of the subject like melodies, which always go straight to the guts.

A half-prosaic, half-poetic hope

Tweaking the format protest song, Neil Young harangues listeners like a politician stirs up crowds. “You’re not alone”, does he sing on the Americana of This Old Planet (Changing Days), before calling Break the Chain. But he knows how to measure his effects: right after, he summons the great American heritage on The Long Day Before, lonely cowboy anthem saved by gospel choirs. It is a benevolent hand on our shoulder that Young lays, without moral lessons or paternalistic advice.

In the electric Chevy, whose fifteen minutes are punctuated by (self)enjoying guitar solos, the king of the road trip assumes his passion for cars while summoning the possibilities of fossil fuels. If we prefer it on the intimate micro-folk of the final reinterpretation of This Old Planet, Neil Young succeeds in transmitting his half-prosaic, half-poetic hope to us despite the inexorable passage of time, warming the planet and bringing it closer to its own demise.

World Record (Reprise Records/WEA). Released since November 18.

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