Any music released by Neil Young (such as Tuscaloosa, the archival treat he put out just four months ago) should be enjoyed at a nice loud volume, just how the hall-of-famer himself would like it. The fact that he’s pulled Crazy Horse together for their first album in seven years (following 2012’s acclaimed Psychedelic Pill) demands a full-volume celebration. Colorado, due for release tomorrow (get it here), includes ten tracks that shed light on the subject matter dominating Young’s present thoughts, expertly presented by a band whose synergy is truly audible. Even through the polished production, Young’s penchant for the perfectly imperfect remains in this raw-sounding and honest record. Having been a vocal environmental advocate since the sixties, he’s sure as hell not slowing down now; Young paddles hard against the ecological crisis and other injustices throughout Colorado.
The tight-knit lineup who built this rich album includes Neil Young (guitar, vocals, piano, vibes), Nils Lofgren (guitar, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). Lofgren – a recurrent Young collaborator (since 1970) – is also known for his work as a longtime member of the E Street Band. With Bruce Springsteen pursuing solo endeavors, Lofgren had time to rejoin Crazy Horse for this record (taking over for retired guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro). Young continues his tradition of devising historically-significant bonus material for hardcore fans to devour. Colorado was accompanied by an eighty-six-minute documentary entitled Mountaintop (which premiered with a one-night screening in select theatres) that chronicles their profanity-rich studio sessions and captures the “love of a rock & roll band that’s been together for fifty years.” The aptly-named film – by Young’s recurring pseudonym Bernard Shakey – highlights the location for which Colorado is named and where they holed up to record it: in a studio near Telluride nine-thousand feet above sea level.
Sunny harmonica and carefree storytelling kick-start catchy opener “Think Of Me,” which pleasantly grabs your focus and holds it for the serious subject matter ahead. “You might say I’m an old white guy,” Young admits in the beginning of “She Showed Me Love,” before he goes on to say admiringly, “I saw young folks fighting to save Mother Nature.” Running for almost fourteen minutes, the song’s unhurried, jammy outro is pumped full of that old rock-and-roll fuel that could maintain its momentum for hours. On the melancholy “Olden Days” that comes next, Young meanders into a statement on how old friends fade away, carrying it with a beautiful falsetto that makes you admire his emotional sincerity.
Similarly, the first verse of “Help Me Lose My Mind” hooks you right away thanks to Young’s intense delivery, and the song keeps picking up steam in a classic way that makes you listen closely. Crucial standout “Green Is Blue” highlights just how much we’ve collectively screwed up. Even the serene piano intro that pulls you in cannot soften the necessary blow of its global warming-themed lyrics: “We saw tomorrow / we long for a better day / And I know why green is blue / There’s so much we didn’t do.” The very next track, “Shut It Down,” is another song that pushes our environmental catastrophe front and center (as it should be), from the perspective of “people trying to save this earth from an ugly death.” Over its guitar-fueled rock melody, Young demands in a chilling and appropriately urgent tone, “What about the animals? What about the birds and bees? What about the bookshelves? What about the history?”
Young’s voice continues to soar on the starry-eyed lyrics of next song “Milky Way” – it really takes a legend to conjure up a graceful line like “The first time I ever saw her smile at me that way / I was sailing in the Milky Way / losing track of memories that weren’t that day right by her side.” The equally romantic “Eternity” features another nice piano intro that echoes its breezy lyrics, enhanced by more of Young’s elegant higher-range vocals. Unforgettably, Crazy Horse’s harmonies are almost as sweet as their “click clack, clickety clack”s and train whistle sounds on this happy ballad. The penultimate “Rainbow Of Colors” is a down-home singalong that fights racism and discrimination with unifying lines like, “There’s a rainbow of colors in the old U.S.A. / No one’s gonna whitewash those colors away.” Moments like this make Colorado so strong that even with its generously lengthy jams, album closer “I Do” seems to arrive way too soon. In a tone so tender it hits you right in the chest, the full group sings gently, “Thanks for making all this happen again / We’re gonna do it just like we did back then.” As any fan would, we’re interpreting that as a promise for future music as powerful and real as this feat.
Article: Olivia Isenhart