Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Album Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Sleeps With Angels

I’m smitten. Object of my desire? 14 minutes of Change Your Mind. But more of that later.

This album came out in 1994 in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s death, and many people felt the title referred to this. It represented a total change of tack from Harvest Moon, with the return of Crazy Horse as the band and David Briggs in the producer’s chair.

The album opens with the totally unrepresentative My Heart, a piece on piano and marimba, with a slight feel of Will to Love (off American Stars n Bars) about it. From here the album becomes a lot more brooding. Prime of Life is faster, with flute and gorgeous harmonies, while guitars growl menacingly in the background. Driveby takes a deliberate guitar pattern and underlays with more guitar growls.

The guitar work is quite superb on this album, the title track being particularly raucous. But Crazy Horse have also proved they can do quiet over the years, and they do so again on this album with the countrified folk of Western Hero (reprised later on the album as Train of Love) which could fit in well on Harvest Moon etc minus the distorted guitar in the middle.

So to the centrepiece, Change Your Mind. It’s another in a long line of long, plodding guitar work outs in Neil Young’s back catalogue. This one is even longer than usual at fourteen and a half minutes and seldom deviates from a two chord formula. But what a stellar pair of chords. Your opinion on this will depend on your opinion of Down by the River, Cowgirl In The Sand, Cortez the Killer etc. I find it amazing that a piece of music like this can run for so long with minimal variation and remain compelling. This one certainly does, brooding like a bad thing throughout.

The album continues with slow noisy blues (Blue Eden), the spooky Safeway Cart with quasi –religious saviour references, and the haunting Trans Am. Piece of Crap is a rockier animal but it’s hard to take seriously with the band roaring “piece of crap!” and A Dream That Can Last brings the whole thing full circle, achoing the melody and feel of the opener.

This is a fairly essential nineties Neil Young album, hanging like the grim reaper in the corner of 1994.