Neil Young Prairie Wind

Neil Young Prairie Wind
No matter how many weird ideas he throws at his audience — and his last release, the multi-media Greendale project was pretty weird — Neil Young can always count on bringing them back with the mellow, country rock sound that propelled his first, and greatest commercial success, 1972’s Harvest. Of course, that’s an over-simplified analysis of his career, but listening to Prairie Wind in this context can’t be helped. The fact is, in all respects it is a vast improvement on Young’s last few albums, where his trademark spontaneity in the studio verged on self-parody. While Prairie Wind opens on a rather non-descript note with "The Painter,” it kicks in immediately after with "No Wonder,” a surprisingly ambitious studio creation built around a gospel-styled chorus and a doom-y riff lifted straight from Tonight’s the Night’s "New Mama.” From here, however, Young leans heavily on his tight Nashville crew, with the gospel choir providing another highlight on the Lennon-esque closer "When God Made Me.” In fact, Young meditates more than ever on existence, possibly due to the recent passing of his father, but whatever the reason, this is also the most lyrically inspired he’s been in years. In some ways, it feels as if Young is facing his mortality in much the same way Bob Dylan did on Time Out Of Mind, but Young addresses it in his own more direct way on songs like the gorgeous "It’s A Dream,” and the childhood recollection "Far From Home.” In the end, while some die-hard fans might bemoan Young once again pandering to the mainstream, Prairie Wind is the return to form that was sorely needed. (Reprise)