Chrome Dreams II
Buddy Holly once implored early rockers to “not fade away.” Neil Young takes that advice a step further, ensuring that his lost songs “not faded away.” The 1970’s and ‘80s were a prolific period for the Canadian-born musician and several of his albums were shelved by his record label in lieu of, what they deemed, more commercial material. Some of the songs from these lost releases made their way to new albums while others became concert fare. In 1977 Young was set to release Chrome Dreams but was overridden by his label, Geffen Records. Instead American Stars ‘N’ Bars was released. Chrome Dreams II is Young’s opportunity to release several lost songs and to recreate the feel of that lost album. According to Young, "it's an album with a form based on some of my original recordings, with a large variety of songs, rather than one specific type of song,”
Chrome Dreams II opens with “Beautiful Bluebird” a song originally recorded for Old Ways. It features Young at his romantic best, always searching for something that appears to be just beyond his reach. The song sets the tone for the album as Young examines human communication (or the lack of it) with other humans, nature, and possibly a higher power. “Spirit Road” and “Ever After” are examples of that search for spirituality. The songs are also full of self-examination. “Everyday People,” an 18-minute long anthem to the working man and woman, has long been a main staple in Young’s concerts and has often been referred to as his best unreleased (with the exception of bootlegs) song. The lyrics reveal Young’s awareness of the issues faced by average Americans and it’s heartening that he includes himself in that group. Even though the song was written more than two decades ago it’s amazing how much it continues to resonate (check out the Lee Iacocca reference). It’s also a great rocker with searing guitar and a blistering sax solo and horns. “Boxcar” another lost gem from the Times Square sessions, is a dust-up, ride the tracks rock ballad that reminds us of how good Young is at creating powerful thumbnail portraits of daily life. The fourteen-minute “No Hidden Path” is a reminder of how much influence Young has had on the jam band scene. Every jam-band should be so lucky as to create this kind of mesmerizing groove.
Young displays his sense of humor on “Dirty Old Man” as he lays out about every stupid mistake a middle-aged, caught-in-a-rut guy could possibly make. (He refers to his group of male backing singers – himself included – as the dirty old men.) Young co-produces the disc with Niko Bolas and is joined by drummer Ralph Molina, pedal steel guitarist and dobro player Ben Keith and bassist Rick Rosas. So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this is pretty spectacular record for the old man of rock who clearly is no where near fading away. It’s a record I can dance to -- and it gives me something to think about! I give it a ten.