Greendale Album Review

Undercover, 8/03, by Paul Cashmere

Neil Young News

Originally published on Undercover.

Greendale is Neil Young's most ambitious album ever. The songs make-up a musical novel about the Green family from the fictitious town of Greendale, USA. As a concept it is questionable but as an album it is spectacular.

Young is using the Greendale concept as the focal point of his current tour. In concert, the entire first half of the show is a complete performance of the album. Some fans might find that a bit unnerving but once you become familiar with the album, it is actually a (pardon the pun) novel idea.

To fill you in on the storyline Neil says on the DVD performance "these songs are about a little town called Greendale and a family that lives there outside of town in a little ranch called the Double E. The Green family: Earl and Edith Green and their daughter, Sun Green. Sometimes Grandpa and Grandma come by, and Cousin Jed comes by too. They were just sitting on the porch when we dropped in on them for a minute. The Double E is a ranch just outside of town, about two miles outside of Greendale". Needless to say, as the story progresses you'll soon discover Greendale is 'Neil Young meets Twin Peaks'.

While the story won't win Neil any Academy Awards, the discipline in making this record could very well help him walk away with a Grammy. There are moments on this record that are as good as he gets. The bluesy 'Double E', the thematic opener 'Falling From Above', the cowpunk of 'Devil's Sidewalk' and the sheer beauty of 'Leave The Driving' portray the best of the various styles of Neil in the first three songs.

Crazy Horse has a sound unto themselves that cannot be emulated with Neil's various incarnations. What surprised me here though is the absence of a founding member. Guitarist Frank Sampedro, the angst in the Crazy Horse sound is nowhere to be seen. His absence explains the lower notch of volume on this record.
Despite his absence, the epics are still abundant. I must admit I'm a sucker for the elongated Crazy Horse songs that finish when they damn-well want to finish and Greendale has them aplenty. The hypnotic 'Carmichael' clocks in at 10:20, the sedate 'Grandpa's Interview' is a tad under 13 minutes and the cowboy blues based 'Sun Green' is 12:03.

'Greendale' has given Young to find the ultimate expansion of his creativity. Remember how he used to have the acoustic and electric versions of 'Hey Hey My My' and 'Rocking In A Free World' top and tale previous records, 'Greendale' as a CD and DVD gives you both an electric listening experience and an acoustic viewing experience to decide between. It's a shame Pancho wasn't part of the sessions because the dynamics between the CD and DVD would be even further felt.

The DVD is a solo acoustic performance recorded at Vicar Street in Dublin with Neil even getting into the Irish spirit by nursing a pint of Guinness during the performance. In between songs on the DVD, he explains the setup of each song. Look for the DVD version when you grab the album.

By Paul Cashmere

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