The statistics are astonishing. Neil Young has released 74 albums. 22 of these have been solo albums, 14 have been with Crazy Horse, 7 have been with other bands (Pearl Jam, The Shocking Pinks, Booker T & The MGs, The Stills-Young Band, The Bluenotes and Promise Of The Real), there have been 9 live albums, 4 soundtracks and 18 albums in his archive series. “Barn” is his fourth album with Crazy Horse in the last ten years but this is the first of these without Frank Sampedro, who retired from the music business, to be replaced by Nils Lofgren. Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot, the two ever present members of Crazy Horse are now 78 years old, two years older than Neil Young.
Neil Young has had four significant relationships in his life. In 1968, he married Susan Acevedo and they divorced in 1970. Between 1970 and 1975 he was in a relationship with actress Carrie Snodgrass (whom he had seen in the film “Diary Of A Mad Housewife”). They have a son, Zeke, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Carrie Snodgrass died in 2004. In 1978, he married Pegi Morton and they had two children, Ben, who has also been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Amber. They divorced in 2014 and Pegi Young died in 2019. Neil Young married actress Darryl Hannah in 2018, having started their relationship in 2014. Darryl Hannah had previously been in relationships with John F. Kennedy Jr and Jackson Browne.
In 2018, Neil Young and Darryl Hannah’s home between Los Angeles and Ventura was destroyed by a forest fire. At that point, they moved to Omemee, which is near the Northern shore of Lake Ontario, near Toronto. Neil Young’s son, Ben, still lives on the Broken Arrow ranch in California, which he bought in 1970. In addition, Neil Young and Daryl Hannah re-built a barn near Telluride, Colorado, originally built in the early 19th century. Neil Young’s last two albums have been called “Colorado” and “Barn” and were recorded in the barn which is shown on the cover of the current album.
Some of the albums that feature Crazy Horse (for example “Zuma“, “Ragged Glory”, “Live Rust” and “Psychedelic Pill”) are wall to wall high-octane rock, giving Neil Young every opportunity to play wild electric guitar solos, . However, most Neil Young and Crazy Horse albums are more subtle and varied and “Barn” is no exception. The opening track, “Song Of The Seasons” is very laid back, with minimal instrumentation apart from maniacal harmonica playing from Neil Young. The song is a rumination on love and the the passing of the seasons. “I see the flicker of your loving eyes in the stories that our love has kept”.
“Heading West” starts with a guitar riff that gives the song the feel of a “Zuma” outtake. Lyrically, it’s a good companion piece to “Don’t be Denied” from “Time Fades Away” as he remembers his parents’ divorce, driving round rural Canada with his mother and yearning to head West.
“This Note’s For You” is an underrated Neil Young album from 1988 but remains one of my favourites. The opening track “Ten Men Working” is a real blast and “Change Ain’t Never Gonna” references that song in its melody and opening line. “Ten men workin’ had to get a new job to try and save the planet from a fuel burnin’ mob”.
Neil Young was born in Canada but, until recently, has lived in America since he “came south to join a band” as he describes the birth of Buffalo Springfield in Track four, “Canerican”. This is the first song on the album that features both Nils Lofgren and Neil Young on electric guitar but, after threatening to take off for an extended jam, it suddenly fades out before the three minute mark.
In “Shape Of You”, Crazy Horse sound like the world’s best bar band, with Neil Young’s ramshackle piano and wild harmonica playing. It includes his current mission statement. “I’m older now but I’m still dreaming and my dreams all have the shape of you”.
“They Might be Lost” is one of those great songs that defy true understanding but have lots of memorable lines. Musically, it’s low key and allows Neil Young’s tuneless but wonderful singing to shine. Something has happened but it’s not clear what. The singer is waiting for “the boys to bring the truck in” and he reflects on his life and the past. “The jury is out on the old days, you know. The judgement is soon comin’ down. I can’t quite remember what is was that I knew”.
Neil Young vents his fury at the way that the planet is abused on “Human Race“. The review in “MOJO” describes this song as an “amp-smelting barn-burner” and the ferocity of the guitar playing is matched by lyrics such as “Who’s gonna tell the children of destiny that we didn’t try to save the world for them?”
“Tumblin’ Through The Years” is a simple love song with a very pretty piano hook played by Neil Young. “It’s a complicated thing this life if I wasn’t here with you.”
The longest track on the album is “Welcome Back”, which is a cross between the languid self-reflection of “Danger Bird” from “Zuma” and the title track of “On The Beach“. Neil Young’s electric guitar solos are restrained but gloriously powerful. He promises to sing an old song which “might be a window to your soul.” And there we have the key to Neil Young’s long standing appeal and my infinite capacity to be fascinated by his music. Very little of his work is perfect, but all of it is emotional and everything resonates at a deep guttural level, threatening to lay all our souls bare.
The final song on the album, “Don’t Forget Love”, is a pop song in which the title is sung 42 times. The “UNCUT” review suggests that the naivety of this song is reminiscent of the child like wonder of Brian Wilson or Daniel Johnston and it makes for a lovely upbeat ending to another great Neil Young album that has addressed issues of the destruction of the planet, old age, broken families and lost love.
3 thoughts on “Barn by Neil Young”
There are few artists/bands that have been a constant throughout my life. Neil Young is one.
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