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Why this album IS a classic,
This review is from: Sleeps With Angels (Audio CD)
Sleeps With Angels may stand as Neil Young's last great work. The hit and miss, and general misadventures of Young's work after this album (Broken Arrow, Silver and Gold, the utterly throwaway Are You Passionate?, and the good, but not brilliant Greendale) just highlight the importance of this album in Young's already great catalogue.
This album covers similar ground to the dark Tonight's the Night and the the heavier parts of Rust Never Sleeps. But what makes this album so strong is the consistent songwriting: reminsicent of these two landmark albums, and even topping them in places.
Starting with the light tac piano melody of My Heart, Young seems to probe darkness and loss without ever being consumed by it. Prime of Life's wonderful flute/ guitar interplay makes this song a highlight. Driveby follows with a wonderful acoustic intro, merging with stark electric guitar later in the song. This leads into the title track, a likely tribute to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and another highlight. Reflecting grunge in it's muddy mix and dramatic guitar play, it's a fitting tribute to Nirvana's master.
Western Hero is more optimistic, with a piano and acoustic guitar lifting the spirit, and remembering the dead (Train of Love, later in the album intriguingly visits the same tune, but with different lyrics looking at the theme of love. But it looks at love, reassuringly, with no slushly feeling whatsoever).
Change Your Mind is one of Young's great guitar epics - 15 minutes in scope, with another muddy mix. This song just has to be heard in full to be fully appreciated. Blue Eden is a guitar type jam with Young and Crazy Horse, leading into Safeway Cart, with an addictive bassline hook that pulls the listener in, and breathy vocals from Young.
After the previously mentioned Train of Love, comes Trans Am - another highlight. A deadpan vocal delivery from Young, mixed with Crazy Horse backing vocals, and minimal instrumentation.
Piece of Crap is the only full on rock out from Young on this album, and it's a minor delight - an irreverent, thinly veiled swipe on consumer life and corporate life, with insane guitar. If only the likes of some grunge/punk bands presently could write such quality throwaway material.
The album closes with it's final highlight - A Dream That Can Last. In some ways, this song revisits My Heart, and reaffirms the positive after the cycle of the negative that much of this album encloses. A rolling piano melody, and delicate harmonies from Young and Crazy Horse beautifully close the album.
Fans of Young in general should be delighted with this album, and even casual listeners should find much to enjoy here. While this album isn't instantly accessible, and has a mournful feel, it represents Young at his very best. Repeat listens of this album with yield ample rewards over time. So do yourself a favour, and buy this album. If you've got open ears, and an open mind, the misery, mourning and optimism in this album will lift you for a long time to come.