Monday, November 5, 2012

GREENDALE by Neil Young, CD review by Chuck Joy

          Greendale. It’s a CD. 2004 release. Is that possible? Seems like I’m still experiencing Greendale brand new. There’s the CD, the music is everything, and there’s also a DVD. I’m planning to watch the DVD again soon, perhaps at the Erie Art Museum, somewhere they screen film. Last time I watched might have been so long ago, 2005 maybe, Alice still with us and Nicole living with Jeremy and at least Caitlin on Old Harbor Street, Southie, in that groovy walk-up where I organized that family watching of Greendale. Remember?

          Greendale. Greendale, it’s an album yes, and it’s a project. There’s a book included, the typical CD package-style book, more a chapbook really, where, instead of lyrics to the songs, Neil has penned a page-size prose piece, themed to each song, displaying the chops he’s lately channeled into his full-size memoir book (author’s note: gift idea!).

          I caught Neil’s current act with Crazy Horse in Cleveland and it’s hot. I am not the same. As I haven’t been the same since Greendale, maybe even more so. Greendale has everything. You know that challenge, bring an album to a desert isle? Greendale could be that album.

          Greendale’s a concept album (and how). Greendale tells a story, with characters and a plot, and setting, Greendale. Greendale is a place. I think the fun tv show Community may be paying Neil tribute with the name of their Community College. This Greendale feels Pacific Northwest, north of San Francisco, where there’s forest, and sharp curves, and guys in flannel shirts and girls who break your heart just to look at ‘em. North to Alaska.

          If that’s everything; everything, that is, except variety of music. Greendale is all Neil, that chunky outlaw country clump rock that really hits my sweet spot and maybe yours. Neil with Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina and once in a while a gingham gang of back-up singers. Many different versions and tempos of the clump rock, rising to ecstatic. I’m not kidding. Neil says himself, It’s all the same song.

          10 tracks for Greendale. The effect builds steadily. Falling From Above sets the tone from the first notes, the beat drop, the electric guitar, then the first words of the lyric. Grampa said to Cousin Jed. People appear, they settle, they entertain, they die, they fuck up, they make better decisions. Track 3, Devil’s Sidewalk. Greendale, Greendale. By the end you will be in your own awkward way flying. Track 9, Sun Green, includes a sly tribute to John Lee Hooker, kicks the clump rock right up to boogie. Let’s dance, honey. If this is poetry it’s that poetry you dance to.

          And if you think you’re in the right place after Sun Green be ready for Be The Rain. Be The Rain predicts Chrome Dreams II’s Spirit Road by those many years. And for those of you who prefer your Neil Young around a campfire, strumming his acoustic guitar from a picnic table outside the trailer, try Bandit. Someday you’ll find everything you’re looking for. He’s right. Neil’s right.

          Greendale tells this story, a real story so plenty sad, a story of art and crime and love and death and growth and dope and politics and journalism and show business. Like Jerry Maguire except a little short on sports. A tragedy, with humor. Peopled with memorable characters: Earl, Earl Green, and Edith, Edith Green, and Cousin Jed, Grampa, Gramma, Sun Green, Susan Carroll, Carmichael, Carmichael’s widow. Carmichael’s widow! I can hear her voice, through Neil’s.

          Neil Young. That guy who just keeps singing / can’t somebody shut him up? / I don’t know for the life of me where he comes up with this stuff. A little love and affection in everything you do will make the world a better place, with or without you. Why do we listen? What is this thing called music? Try some. Wow, huh? What do you say? Would you recommend Greendale?

Lyrics to each song are on this website:

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