Billy Talbot Band Alive in the Spirit World

If there were ever any doubts as to the collective energy that forms the unearthly sound of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, it is quashed by this first album by the Billy Talbot Band. Much as the E-Street Band revitalises Bruce Springsteen, something truly magical happens when Neil Young plays with Crazy Horse. Though Young’s name might be on the marquee, most "rusties” realise that some other kind of sound is created by these four men, one unequalled by any other configuration. While Young’s time away from Crazy Horse often finds him exploring his more introspective side, Talbot’s first solo foray doesn’t stray too far from the sound he’s best known for. Talbot proves himself a more than capable leader, commandeering his own band through a set of challenging, hazy rock that should fit Young fans like a glove. There are poppy moments such as the clap-happy opener, "The Way Life Is,” and tender tunes like "Painting of a Man.” Then there are artfully crafted songs like "His Song,” which one could imagine Lee Ranaldo contributing to a new Sonic Youth record or the 11-minute jam, "Security Girl,” which might easily be included on a set-list for Talbot’s other band. In many ways, the Billy Talbot Band captures the vibe of a less cacophonous Crazy Horse, anchored by Talbot’s gritty, Keith Richards-esque voice; fans of Sleeps With Angels should dig into Alive in the Spirit World whole-heartedly. Comparisons aside, it’s actually refreshing to discover that Talbot’s musical vision falls within the expectations of Neil Young & Crazy Horse fans. It’s yet more evidence that that band truly works together to create its remarkable music. (Sanctuary)