Letter Home [Bonus Tracks]

Letter Home [Bonus Tracks]

2.7 4
by Neil Young
     
 

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During the 2014 promo campaign for Pono, his high-end digital audio device, Neil Young called his forthcoming album A Letter Home "an art project," which is an appropriate term for this curious collection of covers from his contemporaries. It's not so much that the choice of songs is unusual -- nearly all of them are from the '60s and '70s, years when Young was

Overview

During the 2014 promo campaign for Pono, his high-end digital audio device, Neil Young called his forthcoming album A Letter Home "an art project," which is an appropriate term for this curious collection of covers from his contemporaries. It's not so much that the choice of songs is unusual -- nearly all of them are from the '60s and '70s, years when Young was also active, but a handful ("Crazy," "Since I Met You Baby," "I Wonder If I Care as Much") date from the late '50s or early '60s -- but the recording method. Young headed down to Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville where Jack installed a refurbished Voice-O-Graph booth, a device designed to allow a user to "Make Your Own Record" by cutting a song or message directly to vinyl. These contraptions were designed in 1947 and were once a common sight in arcades and fairs but they died away in the '70s, turning into an artifact of a weird old Americana beloved by both Young and White. Neil decided to use the Voice-O-Graph to record a full album, an experiment that's strictly about the method of recording, not the music itself. By design, the Voice-O-Graph allows for no overdubs -- it captures everything that happens in the booth and nothing more -- so the performances are intimate and sometimes rushed, qualities that are alternately enhanced and undercut by the thin, crackly recording. This aural affectation can be affecting -- in particular, his readings of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" and "If You Can Read My Mind" are quite sweet, as is Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," while there's a genuine pang of pathos lying in Bert Jansch's "Needle of Death" -- but the trebly, wavy audio can also seem cacophonous, whether it's capturing Neil alone (Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown") or in tandem with White (a version of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" that always seems just on the verge of falling apart, which could be perceived as a compliment depending on your view). Usually, the flaws of A Letter Home can be pegged on the archaic recording technology -- only a couple of performances feel shambolic -- but Young is also having fun with what the Voice-O-Graph meant, opening the album with a wry, winding spoken letter to his departed mother and then addressing another missive to her later on the record. These words are simultaneously sentimental and impish, a wink to the audience that Young is in on the joke but also doesn't quite consider A Letter Home a joke. Sure, there's artifice and humor here, but there's also heart, and this blend of emotions is what makes A Letter Home one of Neil Young's quintessential, endearingly odd records.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/27/2014
Label:
Reprise / Wea
UPC:
0093624939993
catalogNumber:
540933
Rank:
22061

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Neil Young   Primary Artist,Guitar,Harmonica,Piano,Vocals
Jack White   Guitar,Piano,Vocals

Technical Credits

Ivory Joe Hunter   Composer
Willie Nelson   Composer
Tim Hardin   Composer
Bert Jansch   Composer
Gordon Lightfoot   Composer
Phil Ochs   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Bruce Springsteen   Composer
Neil Young   Art Direction
Don Everly   Composer
Gary Burden   Art Direction
Elliot Roberts   Direction
Jenice Heo   Art Direction
George Ingram   Engineer
Jack White   Art Direction
Jo McCaughey   Back Cover Photo
Kevin Carrico   Engineer
Joshua V. Smith   Engineer
Will Mitchell   Cover Photo

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Letter Home [Bonus Tracks] 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
raptor34 More than 1 year ago
I quess it depends how much of a fan of Neil's work you are.These are not technically polished songs in any way, but if you have read his biographies and understand how his brain works you will really appreciated tjis colection. I found them sweet and poignant and full of wistfulness. I recommend this ti open minded listeners that appreciate what it is Neil Young stands for.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This CD was totally disappointing and a waste of money.  One Star is one star too many.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I appreciate Neil Young's desire not to do the same thing over and over like some other bands/ artists, this is just going too far. It sounds like it was recorded in some kid's bedroom with a basic tape recorder, which I guess basically it was. The artists who  wrote/ recorded these songs originally, I would think be horrified to hear these versions. And the phone calls to his mother? What? I gave it 1 star because 0 stars was not an option to choose from.