This is an excellent Neil Young album, which is a relief to be able to say because I didn't think much of Americana, his last one. This album, like Americana, features Crazy Horse but is a completely different piece of work and it's terrific - in places I think it comes close to his best, which makes it something really special.
The overall sound and feel is vintage Neil Young. There are the hauntingly melancholy tunes, the thoughtful, quirky lyrics and the great chord sequences which made albums like Harvest and After The Goldrush so great, combined with the controlled, distortion-driven power of the brilliant Rust Never Sleeps. (Am I showing my age here?) This album is also a reminder of what a great band Crazy Horse are. The sound is terrific, there is some great guitar work and they are tight and gutsy so even Born In Ontario, the only slightly weak song on the album, still sounds really good.
Neil Young is often meditating on experience and aging here, but he still sounds young and fresh and still has more power and guts than a lot of artists half his age. Several of the tracks are very long; Driftin' Back lasts nearly half an hour and other tracks are over 15 minutes. This, of course, is typical Neil Young - refusing to bow to convention and doing whatever makes musical sense to him at the time. He has always done this and it can be dreadful (it sometimes has been in the past) but nearly all the time here it's great. The huge Ramada Inn is a masterpiece in my view, and more conventional shorter tracks like Twisted Road may well end up in the list of Neil Young Classics.
There is little self-indulgence and a huge amount of real musical substance. Driftin' Back could perhaps do with a little trimming, but it's still a really good track. The last half of Walk Like A Giant will probably get the skip-to-next treatment from me, but its first eight minutes or so are quite brilliant.
You have to hand it to the man - he doesn't mess about and within six months of releasing the mediocre Americana he has come up with a real cracker which I think will stand among his finest albums. If you're not already familiar with Neil Young this may not be the best place to start but if you are I suspect that, like me, you will love this. Very, very warmly recommended.