Prairie Wind

Prairie Wind

4.5 4
by Neil Young

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Every few years, Neil Young sits down to take stock of life -- his own as well as the general swirl of humanity -- and then picks up his acoustic guitar to craft one of his archetypally spare sets. He had plenty of fuel for his creative fire going into Prairie Wind, such as his father's illness (and subsequent death) and his personal infirmities (including a…  See more details below


Every few years, Neil Young sits down to take stock of life -- his own as well as the general swirl of humanity -- and then picks up his acoustic guitar to craft one of his archetypally spare sets. He had plenty of fuel for his creative fire going into Prairie Wind, such as his father's illness (and subsequent death) and his personal infirmities (including a brain aneurism), both of which play heavily into the mortality-obsessed, ultimately triumphant disc. Musically, Prairie Wind follows in the tradition of Harvest and Harvest Moon, although it is slightly more fleshed out than either -- as epitomized by "Far from Home," a nostalgic look back at his formative years in Canada that's propelled by rough-hewn harmonica and honky-tonk piano. The ivories figure prominently in the disc's ten songs, providing an eerily hushed counterpoint to Young's keening vocal on "It's a Dream" and adding an appropriately elegiac tone to the hymn-like "When God Made Me." While Young does more than his share of looking back on Prairie Wind -- from the tumbleweed ramble of the autobiographical "This Old Guitar" to the Elvis homage "He Was the King" -- he spends plenty of time in the here-and-now. When he does, as on the plangent "Here for You," the results are every bit as moving. A subtly hewn gem of a set, Prairie Wind is a major contender for 2005's best album.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Since Prairie Wind is a return to the soft, lush country-rock sound of Harvest; since Neil Young suffered a brain aneurysm during its recording; since it finds the singer/songwriter reflecting on life and family in the wake of his father's death; and since it's his most cohesive album in a decade, it would seem that all these factors add up to a latter-day masterpiece for Young, but that's not quite the case. Prairie Wind manages to be less than the sum of its parts and the problem isn't a lack of good songs (although it does have a few more clunkers than it should) or a botched concept. Young's decision to revive the country-rock that brought him his greatest popularity never feels like a cynical move -- the music is too warm, comfortable, and friendly to feel like anything but Neil playing to his strengths. However, since he cut this in Nashville with a bunch of studio pros including legendary keyboardist Spooner Oldham, it feels just a tad slicker than perhaps it should, since the smooth sound inadvertently highlights the sentimentality of the project. It's hard to begrudge Young if he wants to indulge in rose-colored memories -- a brush with death coupled with a loss of a parent tends to bring out sentimentality -- but such backward-gazing songs as "Far from Home" feel just a hair too close to trite, and the easy-rolling nature of the record doesn't lend them much gravity. There a few other songs that tend toward too close to the simplistic, whether it's the specific invocations of 9/11 and Chris Rock on "No Wonder" or the supremely silly Elvis salute "He Was the King," which are just enough to undermine the flow of the album, even if they fit into the general autumnal, reflective mood of the record. But since they do fit the overall feel of the album, and since they're better, even with their flaws, than the best songs on, say, Silver & Gold or Broken Arrow or Are You Passionate?, they help elevate the whole of Prairie Wind, particularly because there are some genuinely strong Young songs here: the moody opener "The Painter," the gently sighing "Fallin' off the Face of the Earth," the ethereal "It's a Dream," the sweet, laid-back "Here for Your," the understated "This Old Guitar" (there's also the sweeping "When God Made Me," recorded complete with a gospel chorus, one that will either strike a listener as moving or maudlin -- a latter-day "A Man Needs a Maid," only not as strong). This set of songs does indeed make Prairie Wind a better album than anything Young has released in the past decade, which means that it's easy to overrate it. For despite all of its strengths, neither the recording nor the songs are as memorable or as fully realized as his late-'80s/early-'90s comeback records -- Freedom, Ragged Glory, and Harvest Moon -- let alone his classic '70s work. Nevertheless, it's the closest Young has come to making a record that could hold its own with those albums in well over a decade, which means it's worthwhile even if it's never quite as great as it seems like it could have been.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Reprise / Wea

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Neil Young   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Harmonica,Electric Guitar
Clinton Gregory   Fiddle
Emmylou Harris   Guest Appearance
Curtis Wright   Vocals
Ben Keith   Dobro,Pedal Steel Guitar,Slide Guitar
David Angell   Strings
Grant Boatwright   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Anthony Crawford   Vocals
Chad Cromwell   Drums
David Davidson   Strings
Diana DeWitt   Vocals
Connie Ellisor   Strings
Carl Gorodetzky   Strings
Jim Grosjean   Strings
Karl Himmel   Percussion,Drums
Wayne Jackson   Horn
Bob Mason   Strings
Spooner Oldham   Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ,Wurlitzer
Gary Pigg   Vocals
Timothy Christian Riley   Choir, Chorus
Rick Rosas   Bass Guitar
Pamela Sixfin   Strings
Alan Umstead   Strings
Gary VanOsdale   Strings
Mary Kathryn Van Osdale   Strings
Kris Wilkinson   Strings
Pegi Young   Vocals
Tom McGinley   Horn
Carole Rabinowitz-Neuen   Strings
Paul T. Kwami   Choir Director
Brandon Colvin   Choir, Chorus
Jeremy Kelsey   Choir, Chorus
Dorian Chism   Choir, Chorus
Terrance Pogue   Choir, Chorus
Everhard Ramon   Strings
Wesley Trigg   Choir, Chorus
Kawana Nicole Williams   Choir, Chorus
Hayley Reed   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Neil Young   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Ben Keith   Producer,Audio Production
Gary Burden   Art Direction
Chuck Cochran   String Arrangements
Larry Cragg   Guitar Techician
Chad Hailey   Analog Engineer
Wayne Jackson   Horn Arrangements
Jenice Heo   Art Direction
Rob Clark   Engineer

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Prairie Wind 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I was in Barnes & Noble looking for a book, the music dept was playing this CD. I knew by the clear, sweet voice it had to be Neil. When I asked, I was handed a CD from a stack in the helper's arms it was Neil! I purchased it immediately. The lyrics are creative & insightful, the music just what we expect from him and more. Very enjoyable!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Neil Young’s Prairie Wind is a another album from his country persona. It is only two-thirds as long as Greendale, his last release. The songs are shorter and more accessible. He’s using the same sound as most of his acoustic CDs. However, he has added horns and organ on some of the tracks to keep the tone fresh. The lyrics deal with death and loss and have a melancholy air. It’s a good CD for the times when you want something quiet but not bland.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago