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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2009
Neil Youngs take on the state of the US automobile industry, starts of heavy handed with `When worlds collide' taking on the auto industry and mega conglomerates.
`Fuel line' rock n roll almost in the `shocking pinks' style, and `cough up the bucks' Neil's take on the car industry bail outs.
`Light a candle' is reflective Neil Young but would have benefited from a more acoustic arrangement
Most of the rest of the album straight ahead rock of the Greendale variety but without the extended guitar solos
If you buy the CD/DVD package you also get the whole album in hi rez stereo and 4 bonus videos. A comment on one of the videos Neil he sat in front of a camera on his laptop, played the song in one take, then told Reprise 'there's your first music video.' To both their horror and amusement. Funny in the fact that its fuzzy he plays air guitar and does not always appear in frame.
The best of the videos and making this package worth buying is the take of the Beatles `Day in the life' , this live take shreds the original making it sound like a Neil original, ending in a squall of feedback.
Not Neils best album but better than a lot of what is around at the moment. Maybe he will get round to releasing archives but I would rather he delay that project for more new albums.
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on 19 May 2009
like the blurb above says - how can you attempt to be critical about a man like neil young? a man who has consistently done his own thing for 40 years and to hell with what anyone thinks! hes given the world lots of music of un-paralled quality over those 40 years. hes also given us a lot of sub-standard filler - but hes been consistent in his in-consistency!

this album finds neil going back to zuma days. everything is cranked up distorted guitar and rocking out. for my personal tastes, neil is very hit and miss when he rocks out, and i do personally prefer him when he sits back a bit a la 'harvest' and 'on the beach' - on this album there is one stand out track where he gets it spot on, and that is on the track 'johnny magic, - a great little song with a truly infectious lyric and melody. the rest leaves me a bit cold. but then, neils albums have always done that! this is not his best album by a long way but hes still out there doing it in his own way and for that we should all be eternally thankful. rock on neil!

ps - one complaint though - the dvd. i was expecting a video or something, or at least some still pictures. instead we just look at a screen with name and title on it. whats the point?
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on 26 June 2009
A mediocre Neil Young?

Was this to be a mediocre Neil Young album? That is what a review or two led me to believe, as well as hearing the title track myself - a pleasant, funny rocker of fleeting charm. I bought the album + DVD in preparation for attending his 2009 concert in Rotterdam, thinking he would concentrate on this new album. I can only say I was pleasantly surprised and played it 6 times in a row (easy, because the album is short at 38 mins.) The man is quirky, but never mad. His spirit and energy remains exemplary; he is no 60s dinosaur. What I found was a fairly varied collection. The production suggests Neil's trademark lo-fi sound (Ragged Glory - my favourite, Living with War etc etc), but there are a sophiscated spatial quality and elements of refinement - the Buffalo Springfield guitar in Just Singing this Song, a true rock anthem, and the 60s harmonies in When World Collide, Cough up the Bucks. Most songs are upbeat, with the exceptions of Off the Road with its interesting chord progression and Light a Candle for those that need a dose of Harvest on occasion. There are great guitar riffs underlying When Worlds Collide, Fuel Line, Hit the Road. Easy rockers like Johnny Magic, reminiscent of Status Quo. I am not a lyrics man, but Neil is. Is there anyone so with the signs of the times as he? Living with War is a monument, but this one is up there - the environment, the credit crunch and the government's responses and his lovely mix of the bad old American guzzler and electric propulsion - the LincVolt. No mediocre Young album, in short, but a minor classic in my book. Disappointed that he only played the title track during the Rotterdam show (but three off Ragged Glory!) The extra DVD surprised me with his respectful rendition of the Beatles' Day in the Life, but fortunately his quirkiness did not leave him when he butchers his great black Les Paul at the end.
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on 9 April 2009
Neil Young has entered a period of stunning activity of late, most likely brought about because he thought he was going to die a few years back. We've had Prairie Wind, Living With War, Chrome Dreams II and the wonderful Heart of Gold concert all in the space of four or five years. Fork In the Road seems to empathise with an idealised 'middle America', living their lives more or less oblivious to and at odds with the idiotic powers at be. War, money going AWOL, and the comfort of a big old rusty truck.
It all hangs together and chugs along very well but the problem I have with this album is that very little stands out. The title song and Just Singing a Song are pretty cool but, and I hate to say this because I LOVE Neil Young, the album sounds like a bit of a knock off, a bit pedestrian. And the sound quality, dvd or not, sounds very muddy indeed. Its a shame really, its one of those albums that would have been great with a bit more time spent on it, but this sounds like a weekend in a barn with a tape recorder going.
I'll doubtless listen to it a lot more, but you know what? I miss Crazy Horse.........
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on 21 April 2009
This new album raises the usual dilemma with all recent Young albums. Should I buy it?
Based on the poor reviews in the general and music press I almost avoided this one. Yet the press are curiously swayed by fashion. Despite topping the bill at festivals in Britain this summer, Young is no longer flavour of the month. This is partly due to his recent spate of archive albums. These may be great for the fans, but have left the general listener baffled. Others still seek vainly for the next `Harvest'. At arm's length, the lower star ratings in Young's recent back catalogue give the impression of a major talent who has burnt out.
Yet Young always deserves more attention than most artists. I took the plunge and bought `Fork in the Road' and have not been disappointed. It suffers from a similar fate to a Richard Thompson album: a couple of standout tracks, a couple of bummers and the rest are reasonable. Although the raw Bo Diddley style guitar suggests that half the tracks are simply throw-away, yet they are simply part of Young's style.
The only downside is an affliction which has hit major artists since McCartney's first solo album way back in 1970. This is the use of partners as backing vocalists. I'm sure that Mrs Young would be the first to admit that she is no Emmylou, Nicolette or Ronstadt. However the bland saccharine backing almost sinks the standout track.
Overall, if you enjoyed Living with War, you should buy this album. If you prefer the acoustic bliss of Prairie Wind, avoid it.
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This is a good record. The typical Neil Young themes of the 2000s of government, environment, and of course cars (the main driving force of this release if you`ll excuse the pun) are all here, and delivered in ways that one would expect. Some screeching guitars, shouted background vocals, quirky lines and ideas...in fact, you need to read the lyrics that are in the digipak, as they are as funny as Young has been for years. It must be said though that there are a lot of songs that probably won`t sit in their own right into the Neil Young canon, but this is of course due to the astonishingly high numbers of absolute gems in his back catalogue.

My favourite bits are the songs that remind me of old classics - more than once I was alerted by the promise of classic Neil, thinking I was about to hear "Piece of Crap" or even "Look Out For My Love"! I don`t know if anyone agrees with me but I almost wish he wasn`t so damn prolific with his releases, and held better songs back to create the magical album I`m waiting for, something like "On The Beach" or "Zuma", even another "Greendale". Maybe I`m being too harsh, but I`d love to have a bit more light and shade, an "Ambulance Blues" with "Revolution Blues" style contrast. Is it even slightly reasonable to think that we`ll hear anything like that again? That is his fault, for setting the bar so high for so long. My biggest fear was quickly allayed - that it would be an "Are You Passionate?" or "Chrome Dreams II" - it`s not, it`s much more rock than them. It`s more like "Ragged Glory" without Crazy Horse or a ballsier "Freedom" if that helps!

PS. One final thought. After seeing Neil Young in Nottingham last week it struck me, as he played only "Get Behind The Wheel" from this album, what a set list he could have played, and potentially how long he could have played for! What is almost unique about Neil, and what I have realised is one of his greatest strengths, is that he releases everything he does (with a few exceptions), he writes about what he wants to write, he leaves nothings behind and if he died tomorrow you feel that he would be one of the few people who could honestly say they achieved all they could, tried everything, wasn`t afraid of criticism or relative failure...I suppose my point is that he is a great example of overcoming adversity, being honest and being yourself, and not having regrets. Almost like an existentialist`s perfect example. And damn close to a perfect musician.
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on 23 May 2009
The most obvious point of comparison for Neil Young's latest is probably the recent Living with War - Young in garage rock mode getting his teeth into some topical meat. To my ears though it's a comparison that flatters Fork in the Road. Where the songs on 'War' sounded effortless, as though Young were a conduit directly channeling the discontents of a nation, the tunes here seem less inspired, and it's a lot more evident it's been thrown together somewhat quickly.

I don't doubt Young's sincerity, and his desire to address his subjects with such immediacy is admirable, but melody and lyrics-wise the results here are mixed. The insistent rocker Fuel Line is one of the best on both counts, with Young singing the praises of hybrid technology while his backing singers demand we 'Keep filling that old fuel line' like a Greek Chorus observing human vested interest.

On the other hand, Cough Up The Bucks is either an embarrasingly simplistic analysis of the current global financial crisis, or an attempt to articulate the sense of baffled disenfranchisement most normal people feel in the face of Collateralized Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps and the like - 'Where did the money go' indeed? Either way, the songs repetitive riffing and minimalism are worryingly remiscent of Young's much maligned Re-ac-tor album.

The rest of the album is also hit-and-miss, but ends strongly. The haunting Light a Candle is a great ballad, and Fork in the Road, (which sounds a little Subterranean Homesick Blues to me) is at once scattershot, wry and cutting.

Overall, it's tough to come down too hard on Young for this one. It's part of project he obviously cares passionately about, and unlike the part-time activist musicians he lays down the gauntlet to on Just Singing a Song (won't change the world) Young actually walks it like he talks it - he's putting a lot of his own money into the Linc Volt, and you've gotta respect the guy for that.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2009
To me this album seems rushed - Neil Young has constantly re-invented himself over the years from being "just" a "folkie" back in the early days to his flirting with country in "Old Ways", 50s r'n'r "Everybody's rocking", vocoders "Trans" the Pearl Jam years "Mirrorball" and so many more. And we mustn't forget "Greendale" though I would like to do so !
This album sounds as though he knocked it off on a spare weekend as he's gotten into saving the world via the "green" car and sounds very much like "Living with war" in that respect. I know, before anyone tells me, that he's been trying to save the world with a green car for some time and that's a very laudable thing to do but it seems as though his enthusiasm bubbles over and he just has to tell the world what he's thinking at this particular time in his life.
The songs are quite good but, to me, there's nothing particularly earth shattering here no "Hurricane" or "Cortez the killer" or even "Harvest" or "Tonight's the night" - nothing that immediately send shivers up and down the spine and certainly none of the blistering guitar solos that he's capable of doing. As my title reveals I find it a bit rushed and nowhere near as polished as some of his earlier work. It's not a major disappointment but it IS a disappointment. by anyone else's standards this would be a very good album but this is Neil Young and he is, I think, capable of so much better
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on 16 April 2009
I read some savagings of this album in the press before I owned it. It's Neil so I'd have bought it anyway, but I think a lot of those playing it once over have missed the point. Sure, this is Neil on another flight of fancy, driven (no pun intended) this time by the project to convert his Lincoln Contintental to an eco-friendly beacon for motoring of the future. And sure, his brainstorms can lead him well away from the mainstream and into work others struggle to understand. But we're nowhere near the confusion of Greendale which is more like a novel, or the indulgence of Everybody's Rockin which must have been fun to make, but did little to advance his reputation.

For Neil watchers better signposts this time might be Broken Arrow or Re-ac.tor, seemingly effortless rock-outs, chock full of flying riffs, fleeting solos and instantly memorable melodies. For all the criticism of the focus on the 'Linkvolt' car project Fork in the Road does look outwards and deliver some deep thinking and Neil's usual dry humour. Just Singing a Song is a statement of principle that it's okay to talk about issues but getting out and doing something is what counts. The beautiful and sparing Light a Candle is a ballad to compare with his best, and a deeply-felt statement of optimism. The title track has Neil cussing, pointing fingers at washed up bankers and getting down to what matters with a combination of rightious fury and dark mischief.

It doesn't pay to pour over the lyric sheet and put your life on hold too many times when listening to Fork in the Road, but it's a perfect companion in the car or at home because it has those flashes to suggest the man is still on fire. When it grinds along and sputters into those fiery guitar licks, for all that it might have been recorded with his usual haste, it still has that full-on/full of life feel.
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on 18 May 2009
If Fork In The Road had been released instead of Reactor back in the early 80's, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece, a worthy sequel to the grunge-fest of Rust Never Sleeps. But this is nearly 30 years later, and what was cutting edge then is cliche today. Still, not all is wrong with predictability.

Before Young begins singing on each song, you can often anticipate the melody line he'll use -- they're standard Young melodies that Neil is not about to ditch any more. He's recylced this music so often that there's a considerable element of familiarity in most Young fans before they've even listened to a single track. This has its pros and cons. If you fight it, it's a con. Neil won't change at this stage. If you accept it, it can be a pro. The material falls within stylistic expectations and the only question left is: Does Neil retread the same old ground with quality songs, or is he merely going through the motions? This time around, it's the first. You may have heard Fork in countless variations on previous Young albums, and yet his old tricks are still effective when done well and given a twist. Of course, this also lends a rushed and tossed off feel to the music, but it's also added a certain charm to Neil's work in the past. That's frequently been the case with many of his classics. The ramshackle urgency of "Down By the River", "Cowgirl In the Sand", and "Southern Man" just make it all so much more exciting.

The following albums are strongly alluded to here: Reactor, Rust Never Sleeps, On The Beach, Comes A Time, and a touch of Hawks And Doves as well as the more shadowy side of Stars And Bars. Not that Fork is as brilliant as some of these, it's just that they are the source from which Neil borrows to make Fork (blatantly sometimes). Quite a different concept altogether.

There is, however, one major difference or addition to the old recipe. This is a grungy and yet LITE album that, as many reviewers noted, would be cool for cruisin' around. While it may have all the grunge you want, it has little of the grunge darkness (unlike Greendale). And that's an interesting combo which permeates the entire album, making it snappy, foot-tapping, and well-crafted, if undemanding as well. Then there's some clever riffing and well chosen color changes within most songs (in fact, the title track is by far the lamest of the heavy ones). And to top it off, the production is wholly unassuming, allowing the raw vigor of the band to come through -- simple, hard-hitting, forward-looking. All this makes Fork relevant and Neil's most pleasant surprise in decades.

I disliked the album initially (the rather obvious lyrics remain the my biggest complaint). I then found myself putting it on because it was both good company and a plain fun listen. With only one skippable song (a rare feat these days, and the culprit is the excessively derivative Off The Road), Fork In The Road may end up becoming Neil's swan-song.
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