(Reprise CDW 47305)
All I could think about as this disc spun over the laser was how much Lou Reed hates Neil Young. “Love’s the answer, love’s the question…” warbles Neil, in gentle falsetto over piano and six-string. I imagine what Swift might have felt if forced to sit and read Wordsworth. Maybe Lou’s just jealous because he’ll never get asked to sing around a campfire.
The cash-cow reunion tour with CSN has put Mr. Young back in the acoustic mood, singing about grassy hills and “feeling the earth” and the kind of love that never grows old. This effort feels a lot more like Harvest than Harvest Moon, which in my mind is a step backward.
It seems that Neil can either be a sentimental old fool or a cut-throat cynic–there’s no middle-ground. With an acoustic guitar he insists on sentiment, while rocking out with Crazy Horse brings out the anger. This is supremely aggravating in that each time he slips from this formula and brings some pain and/or cynicism into his acoustic work it sounds like a classic. “Helpless,” “The Needle and the Damage Done,” and “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” are prime examples of what this great artist is capable of, and I just don’t hear anything standing that tall on this effort.
The title track and the album’s closer, “Without Rings” are excellent, even riveting songs. But like Harvest, there’s too much pretty and not enough poison. This is a cottage album, pure and simple. “Daddy Went Walkin’” is a sing-a-long classic (evident when performed at last year’s Farm Aid to an enthusiastic crowd), and “Buffalo Springfield Again” is sweet enough to choke a chocolate bar.
The recording is intimate and appealing. I wish producer Ben Keith was smart enough to include more of his own excellent steel guitar, as well as provide larger roles for Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris who appear on only one song each.
Remember that phase in high school where you suddenly are convinced that modern music is for kids and that real people only listen to Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller and Van Morrison? Silver and Gold is a perfect album for that phase. Buy your thirteen year old the latest Neil Young and listen to her explain all the reasons why CSN&Y is better than NSYNC.