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on 13 September 2004
One of Neil's most under-rated albums. This is a typically ragged and dirty sounding work, patched together with recordings from different years. Neil recorded whenever he felt like it and often left the material in the tape vault instead of issuing it straightaway. I approached this album with great trepidation but my fears were ungrounded. It's sloppy, raw and all heart. Whilst it lacks the gravitas of "Tonight's The Night" and "On The Beach", it contains plenty of good humour. Crazy Horse are at their bar-room brawling best on the tracks featuring them whilst the country-tinged remainders are harsher and more soulful than the Eagles. I play this album all the time and still can't believe it wasn't released on CD earlier.
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on 21 January 2008
I've always been led to believe that this was one of Neil Young's weak albums. As ever, opinion is divided. Just as Mirrorball and Living With War are among my favourite Young albums, there are others who rate Harvest Moon and Ragged Glory highly.

American Stars N Bars isn't about to become one of my favourites, but it's still strong. I've read reviews that say it doesn't hang together, that there's too much disparity between the first half of the album and the second. Of course it's essential if only for the inclusion of the classic "Like A Hurricane", though I've also read that the version here is tame compared to some of the live workouts from the 1976 tour. I wouldn't say that's fair either. It's shorter than some of the live versions I've heard, but the long, slow bends at the end of the solo are outstanding, and stand up to any lead guitar work from any era.

So as I'm sure you've heard, and without delving into the history that caused this album to be released, the first half of the album is comprised of country rock songs. And they're fairly good. "Saddle Up The Palomino" has a particularly good riff, and jaunty tune. I've heard disparaging remarks about "Bite the Bullet", but really it stands as a fairly average Young rocker - neither great nor poor.

This record does contain "Star of Bethlehem", which was on the Decade compilation, but that is one song I do feel to be overrated.

I guess the second half of the album is marginally stronger, but I wouldn't say that is detrimental to the album as a whole - it just gives you something to look forward to. "Will To Love" is intriguing, and contains the sound of a fire crackling in the background. It is a little long though, and Young's vocals are just too quiet to allow me to follow the narrative all the way through. In general though I would say this record actually presents Young's best vocal performance. His voice is consistently strong and rich, even when singing alongside Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson.

In all, American Stars N Bars is for me another worthy addition to Young's excellent 70s period - After The Goldrush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight's the Night, Zuma, Rust Never Sleeps are all amazing albums, and fans shouldn't be wary of getting this one too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 September 2012
I am at a loss to understand why this album is consistently overlooked. Is it the odd artwork perhaps?

I heard this album for the first time today and instantly loved it.

It is true to say that the album lacks coherence - apparently it is cobbled together from work recorded over a period of time so the result is an odd mix of country, rock, ballads et al.

If you can ignore the vast variation in styles and take each song as it stands, this is actually quite a beautiful album. The majority of the songs are very strong and represent the top end of Young's extensive output over the years.

If you're a fan, give it a try. I don't think it will disappoint.
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on 18 June 2003
While this isn't one of Neil Young's most consistently brilliant albums (I think "Tonight's The Night" wins that award) the second half is fabulous. 'Star Of Bethlehem' and 'Like a Hurricane' are both on "Decade", so everybody should know how great those songs are, but in my opinion, "Will To Love" is the standout. A fragile, dreamlike and beautiful acoustic track complete with log fire crackling in the background and ghostly instrumentation floating in and out of the mix, this is one of Neil's most original songs. The album ends with 'Homegrown', which is a classic, wonky Crazy Horse track cut from the same cloth as the title track from "Everybody Knows...". The first half isn't quite up to the same standards, none of the songs could be described as classics, but are good nonetheless, with some nice violin and backing vocals from Nicolette Larson (who features on "Rust Never Sleeps") and Linda Ronstadt. This album was well overdue a CD release.
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on 14 July 2003
I may be alone in adopting this as my favourite Neil Young album but that may be more to do with the year it was released (1977)and what else was going on in my life at the time.
I was 17 then and well into UK punk, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Television. I remember John Peel on Radio 1 playing "Like A Hurricane" in between The Damned, Generation X and The Desperate Bisycles and thinking that I had never heard a guitar sound like that.
I got the album on vinyl and became instantly converted to his version of country-rock - to the extent that I still prefer the tracks on this album ("Bite the Bullet", "Homegrown") to a lot of his more famous records.
This CD version sounds a bit pristine and smooth around the edges compared to the original but, nevertheless, this is a fantastic position statement of a true artist.
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on 27 July 2009
Not one of Neil Young's best albums, but very much an under estimated one.

Hey Babe, Hold Back the Tears, Bite the Bullet, Will to Love and Like a Hurricane are all great songs.

That's five great songs out of the nine on the album.

How many other artists can do that on one of their average albums?
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on 7 November 2015
Stand-out track is, of course, 'Like A hurricane' though the vocals are a bit off. He does make up for it with some great guitar work - I think this song may be the closest he actually came to heavy rock in the seventies. 'Hold Back The Tears' is also a great track. In fact, 'Will To Love' is the only disappointment as it just gets grating after about 3 or 4 of its 7 minutes-odd. Am I the only one who's not to keen on 'Star of Bethlehem'?
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on 26 February 2014
This is a really refreshing Young album, and its appeal is in it's honesty and humanity....and of course many classic songs to rival most things of Harvest, Rust never sleeps etc. Like Rust.. it covers a range of styles and for some that's a blessing and for others a curse. I wish more modern artists could give range to the whole span of their creativity instead of the lame One-Dimensional 'safe' radio fodder that most peddle.
For your money you've got the epic, yet succinct (compared with some of the live versions) of 'Like a Hurricane' - arguably top 3 NY songs, 'Star of Bethlehem', 'Will to Love' and many other lesser known but equally potent gems.
'After the Goldrush' it's NOT... yet it's light years ahead of most recent offerings, and to these ears, ahead of Harvest; Freedom; ZUma; (Sacrilege!!) and somewhere on an equal footing to 'Comes a Time' 'Ragged Glory' and 'Hawks and Doves'

Helpful??? Who knows, such is the broad range of taste and opinion even within the NY fanbase.
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on 19 June 2003
If like me you sometimes find yourself hankering for songs sung from the point of view of a fish then you won't be disappointed by "American Stars 'n' Bars", as it's got a particularly good example in "Will to Love". In fact it's the best track on the album, which considering there's also "Like a Hurricane" is something of an achievement. The other standout track is "Star of Bethlehem"; the rest of the album doesn't reach the same standard but for these tracks alone (and the fish) it's good enough.
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on 26 April 2017
Good album, not one of my favourites from Neil Young
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