Neil Young, World Record (a review)

Another Neil Young release for 2022. The man is prolific. Young and Crazy Horse released Barn, last December, and this year the unreleased Toast, Noise and Flowers (a live album), and his 50th anniversary of Harvest.

World Record is a head-scratcher. Too much for a single CD, it spills onto a second CD. Designed for vinyl, a two-LP set. Young said in an interview, this set was intended for release last May, but his record company couldn’t get the vinyl pressed until much later. Vinyl is the preferred format for a growing segment of the audience.

When I called this release a head-scratcher, I don’t know what category of Neil Young music best describes it. Is it American Stars ‘n’ Bars, Hawks and Doves, Harvest Moon or something else? It’s not a complaint, the album has grown on me after repeated listens.

Musically, it alternates between country-shuffle and loud, gritty guitar-grunge. Crazy Horse, his sometimes backing band is back. A couple of years ago, Nils Lofgren joined after Frank Sampedro retired. Lofgren was a member of Crazy Horse back in the 1970s. He does double-duty with Young and Bruce Springsteen.

Crazy Horse and Neil Young

Young employs a pump organ on several of the songs, which adds to the overall album message of a time passed by and a planet in serious trouble because of us. Young alternates between piano, pump organ and guitar. He also adds a kick-drum, something I’ve not heard him use before. That helps give the songs a definite rootsy beat. Young only plays guitar on three songs, including the 14 minute “Chevrolet” which is the real rocker on the album. Lofgren adds versatility from guitar, accordion, piano and organ. He also plays a steel pedal guitar to enhance the slow, bluesy groove. The mix of vocals are nice, that’s one of the benefits of Nil Lofgren being in the band.

Rick Rubin and Young.

I’m really undecided about this album. Occasionally, the album rocks, and when it does, it’s great. Most of the songs have a mellow, country barn groove. Young employed Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys) to co-produce with him. I’m not sure of Rubin’s contribution, this album sounds like Neil Young’s earlier work with David Briggs. Young rarely uses layers of production, he records quickly and likes to perform live in the studio, with sparse overdubs.

1. Love Earth
2. Overhead
3. I Walk With You (earth ringtone)
4. This Old Planet (changing days)
5. The World (is in trouble now)
6. Break The Chain
7. The Long Day Before
8. Walkin’ On The Road (to the future)
9. The Wonder Won’t Wait
10. Chevrolet
11. This Old Planet reprise

2 thoughts on “Neil Young, World Record (a review)

  1. To me this album is classic Neil in many regards. You have acoustic tunes like “Love Earth” and “This Old Planet”, and you have crunchy rockers like “I Walk With You” and “Break the Chain” – pretty much a reflection of what Neil does (used to do? Who knows at this point) during concerts with Crazy Horse. I also like the loose and spontaneous feel of “World Record” – it’s definitely not overproduced. Whether Neil really needed Rick Rubin who I dig as a producer is a fair question.

    Liked by 1 person

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