Greendale

Greendale

4.0 2
by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
     
 

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Neil Young is no stranger to experimentation, having devoted entire albums to electronic music, rockabilly, and even, as on the live Arc disc, unadorned feedback. Even by his standards, however, this concept album is pretty demanding: It's an old-fashioned morality play, pitting good against evil, hawk against dove, but Young's lyrical shadings blur the lines

Overview

Neil Young is no stranger to experimentation, having devoted entire albums to electronic music, rockabilly, and even, as on the live Arc disc, unadorned feedback. Even by his standards, however, this concept album is pretty demanding: It's an old-fashioned morality play, pitting good against evil, hawk against dove, but Young's lyrical shadings blur the lines between the two sides, making for plenty of gray area. Musically, Greendale is something of an extension of Zuma, with plenty of Dust Bowl twang and fuzzy, ambling melodies. Backed by Crazy Horse's rhythm section, Young stretches out on several tracks, notably the character sketches "Sun Green" and "Carmichael," that are peppered with his trademark minimalist guitar solos. "Devil's Sidewalk," the album's sonic peak, is also its angriest declamation, as Young punctuates his stomping riffs with vocals, sung in the "Grandpa Green" character, railing against the downward spiral of popular culture. The story line can be somewhat convoluted -- and it contains enough murder and intrigue to fuel a year's worth of soap operas -- but at its best, as on the blues plaint "Double E" and the soft, parched ballad "Bandit," it's easy to throw logic to the wind and get swept up in the pure emotion. And as anyone who's followed Neil Young over the decades knows, few can match him when he's feeling passionate.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Prior to its release, Greendale received more attention than any Neil Young album in years, but it wasn't positive. Young hauled out his concept album -- about an extended family in a small town called Greendale, and how they're torn apart by a murder -- to unsuspecting audiences, who by and large were not happy about spending anywhere from 55 to 85 dollars to hear a dense convoluted song cycle, complete with rambling narrative from Young, for the first hour of the show and not hearing many hits in the remainder of the set. Early in the summer of 2003, there was a brief blast of stories about this quasi-scandal, setting the stage for the late-summer release of the album: it got Young some needed press, and announced that unlike his last several albums, Young was actually trying this time around. Frankly, he needed a change. Ever since 1994's Sleeps With Angels -- or, if you're less charitable, 1990's Ragged Glory -- he had been drifting, playing with different groups, never quite mustering up enough energy to assemble a consistent set of songs whenever he headed into the studio. Here, the story and the setting give Young a hook for the record, a common theme that he can rally around, and the album benefits so much from that focus that it doesn't really matter that the story is convoluted beyond comprehension; the plot matters so much that it winds up not mattering at all. Close attention and repeated listens offer few rewards to the careful listener, because Young doesn't really say much of anything here, no matter how elaborately he says it. Learning more about the narrative -- whether it's through the simultaneously released DVD of the Young-directed film Greendale, hearing his rambling on-stage between-song narratives, or reading apparent transcriptions of these ramblings in the liner notes -- illuminates the story slightly, even as declarations like "When I was writing this I had no idea what I was doing, so I was just as surprised as you are" emphasize the suspicion that there's not much meaning in the whole enterprise. All this doesn't really matter because Greendale works as a record -- it ebbs and flows and it holds together, playing as a unified whole on a level he hasn't approached since Ragged Glory. As Young says in the liner notes, these are things "you can't tell by listening to the songs, you have to listen to the instrumentals to get this," and while that is meant to apply to one of the many Crazy Horse-fueled meandering improvs, it really applies to the album as a whole since Greendale connects in its overall picture, not the details. Sometimes, such as the quietly eerie and affecting "Bandit," the songs stand apart from the concept, but usually the lyrics are too devoted to his winding narrative to be their own entities. Then again, Greendale was designed to be an interconnected song cycle, and if the narrative neither works nor signifies much, it nevertheless kept Young focused on the construction of the album, whether it's giving the songs memorable hooks or finding ways to make the signature ramshackle vibe of Crazy Horse sound both fresh and appropriate for this tale. It all adds up to a very good record -- one that is interesting, and one that satisfies musically. It may not be a latter-day masterpiece on the level of Dylan's Love and Theft, but it most surely is a comeback for an artist who seemed permanently adrift at sea.
New York Times - Neil Strauss
By the end the listener is left practically breathless with the beauty, hope, pathos and power of the music and the story.... "Greendale"... [succeeds] like a flower blossoming in the dirt.
Rolling Stone - Milo Miles
Greendale has a tattered, buzzing, demonlike sound, rude as any Young has put out.
Blender - Jon Pareles
A consistently absorbing tale from a songwriter who's still pushing himself.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/13/2008
Label:
Warner Bros Uk
UPC:
0093624854326
catalogNumber:
248543
Rank:
51217

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Falling from Above
  2. Double E
  3. Leave the Driving
  4. Bandit
  5. Carmichael
  6. Devil's Sidewalk
  7. Grandpa's Interview
  8. Bringin' Down Dinner
  9. Sun Green
  10. Be the Rain

Disc 2

  1. Falling from Above
  2. Double E
  3. Leave the Driving
  4. Bandit
  5. Carmichael
  6. Devil's Sidewalk
  7. Grandpa's Interview
  8. Bringin' Down Dinner
  9. Sun Green
  10. Be the Rain

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Neil Young & Crazy Horse   Primary Artist
Neil Young   Organ,Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals
Susan Hall   Group Member
Ralph Molina   Drums,Vocals
Billy Talbot   Bass,Vocals
Pegi Young   Group Member
Nancy Hall   Group Member
Mountainettes   Vocals
Twink Brewer   Group Member

Technical Credits

Neil Young   Composer,Producer
Gary Burden   Art Direction
Larry Cragg   Guitar Techician
L.A. Johnson   Producer
Liam McGrath   Camera Operator
John Nowland   Remixing
Elliot Roberts   Direction
Jimmy Vaughn   Contributor
Bernard Shakey   Producer
William Mitchell   Engineer
Jenice Heo   Art Direction
Mark Humphries   Monitor Engineer
Keith Wissmar   Lighting Director
Simon Willis   Engineer
James Mazzeo   Artwork,Illustrations
Harry Sitam   Contributor

Customer Reviews

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Greendale 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Only Neil Young would think of composing a rock opera 30 years after the form’s heyday. Young is protesting the media, FBI, and exploitation of the environment but his disorganized presentation undercuts his goal. Although he can write good story songs now and then (Powderfinger, Crime in the City), sustained narrative is not his strong suite. Pete Townshend he’s not. Even the liner notes don’t help to clarifying the plot and meaning of the concept. He still plays great grunge guitar and the Crazy Horse rhythm section bashes merrily away. I’m a NY fan so I’ll give Greendale 3 stars for that and its ambition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this CD and then saw Neil Young perform this in concert. It was very powerful. I didn't know Neil could rock the house like that. I enjoy the CD a lot better now. The songs are more enjoyable in concert because it's louder and you can hear the drums/guitars better. Great show Neil!