It would take an artist like Neil Young to release a follow-up to an album that never made official release… yet (was recorded in 1977 at a time when he was arguably at his peak). Thirty years on, Chrome Dreams II is a real mixed bag. Some Neil Young albums stick to one particular style, but some of the best ones mix up his rockers and his acoustic songs, as found here.
Opening track Beautiful Bluebird is Neil in his country-folk mode, and in truth it’s a little mawkish. Boxcar is a sprightly banjo tune, written originally for Times Square, which became 1989’s Freedom and this one missed the cut. It’s an improvement on what went before and it leads into the 18 minute Ordinary People. This one features the kitchen sink, riffs, trombones, saxophone but it’s a somewhat plodding track that really doesn’t need to be so long!
The rest of the album is a mix between cloying sentimental songs (Shining Light, Ever After, The Way), soul ballads (The Believer) and heavier work-outs (Spirit Road, Dirty Old Man, No Hidden Path) which are preferable to the others. Spirit Road has a decent dirty riff and is mercifully only six and a half minutes long, while Dirty Old Man echoes 1994’s Piece of Cr@p. In all ways. No Hidden Path eschews brevity and riffs along a la Crazy Horse for 14 and a half minutes without really going anywhere.
Elsewhere Ever After is a very sentimental country tune, and piano ballad The Way features a children’s choir, never the best idea. Despite my reservations, it’s still a Neil Young album, and at times even an enjoyable one.