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Neil Young was largely absent from the musical mainstream of the 1980's, experimenting with guise albums that were largely unsuccessful. So much so that Geffen, his record label throughout the period, sued him for making uncommercial albums ...

Lucky Thirteen, a compilation of his best material from the period, was a disappointment; the Kraftwerk-like material on Trans sounds the most interesting. And whilst 1989's Freedom signalled a return to a more conventional style for Young, and heralded a reasonably successful artistic comeback, his best music from the 1990's is still a level below his best music of the 1960's and 1970's.

Freedom, Young's first and strongest album of the period, originally began as a Hard Rock album to be named 'Times Square'. The project was never completed and 'Times Square' was reduced to the Eldorado EP, of which only 5000 copies were released, in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Three of the five songs from Eldorado resurface on Freedom, all of which are great, but the highlight is the Hard Rock reinvention of "On Broadway". Characteristically, the rock is mixed with tender ballads "Wrecking Ball" (which became the title track of Emmylou Harris' impressive 1995 album), and the lovely "Hangin' on a Limb" with harmony vocals from Linda Ronstadt.

Both the noisy and subdued aspects of Young's music are expressed by two versions of "Rockin' in the Free World", which bookend Freedom. One's a conventional rocker, the other an acoustic live version with a crowd that's too busy cheering along to the ironic chorus to listen to the social commentary of the verses.

Unfortunately not all of Freedom is as memorable. as there are a few songs that are relatively straightforward and lightweight, the worst of which is "The Ways of Love", a previously unreleased 70's song that should've been left to gather dust in the archives. And the awfully long "Crime in the City" gets plain monotonous, although it does have intriguing lyrics.

Freedom seems to be a difficult album to track down these days, I've only ever seen a couple of copies.

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Posted: Saturday 23rd Sep 2017 1:33 PM

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Apparently Young developed hearing difficulties after Ragged Glory, and was forced to record something quieter.

Fair enough, but what's unfair is that Harvest Moon became Young's highest selling release since the original Harvest in 1972. So maybe he deserves a medal for not selling out and becoming a country/pop lounge king, for after Harvest Young made a deliberate decision to escape the middle of the road.

Harvest Moon is pleasant, but that doesn't compensate for the dull songs. "Old King" - a tribute to Young's dead dog - is arguably the most tacky moment in his entire catalogue, although it is catchier than most of the other crap here.

The only songs I enjoy are "Such a Woman", which is strangely affecting, "From Hank to Hendrix", and "Natural Beauty". The latter is over 10 minutes long, unplugged, and uses the same four-chord sequence Young used for "Cortez the Killer", so it gets slightly monotonous. Still, the lyrics are more interesting than the rest of Harvest Moon put together: I heard a perfect echo die behind an anonymous wall of digital sound.

Apart from that, Harvest Moon is too bland to be interesting, although it may appeal to ageing and/or very mellow types. Young is capable of more demanding music.

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Posted: Saturday 23rd Sep 2017 7:08 PM

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