I’m at a loss.
I’ve been awarded the opportunity to review a compilation CD, Neil Young’s Greatest Hits, and, for the first time, I feel that I lack the literary acumen necessary to define such musical mastery.
Neil Young is a legend. His highly charged, and highly personal, lyrics have, along with his distinguished vocals, and razor edged guitar riffs, shaped music for the past thirty years. Even today, there is no denying his continued influence.
Some call Neil the father of grunge. Some call him Canada’s answer to Bob Dylan. To these ends, I know little. In my opinion, labeling an artist, who’s indulged in every form of popular music, is artistically restrictive, and, with respect to Neil, is an injustice.
Neil is an artist, an artist who defies convention, and description. His music is less a conscious assemblage of lyrics and melodies, and more of an intimate experience that becomes an anthem for life. And this CD marvelously purifies this experience into sixteen tracks.
Greatest Hits, already surpassing Gold status in sales, takes the best of what Neil offered over these past decades, and presents us with a strong statement of why the moniker of greatness so aptly applies.
Songs like “Keep on Rocking in the Free World”, in which Neil shares the stage with Pearl Jam, and “Ohio”, resonate with a politically charged atmosphere. Where songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Gold Rush”, and “The Needle & The Damage Done” emote emotions known only to those who’ve knowingly married despair.
Although the bulk of Greatest Hits can be deemed Folksy, there is a backbone to this compilation. “Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black)” bellows with deep throated guitars, and a healthy dose of feedback. “Cinnamon Girl” also grinds with a rhythmic purity that can only be quelled by immediate toe tapping, and air guitar imitation. But these two extremes are expertly weighed with tracks that highlight Neil’s interpretation of Blues, best heard in “Southern Man”, and “Comes a Time”, which typifies the feel of Country.
Neil Young’s Greatest Hits could not be a finer example of what one artist can achieve. It is truth, it is beauty, and it is raw. No matter your personal musical tastes, this CD will supply at least one moment of audio revelation. You may never become a devotee, but you will know why Neil is considered a legend.
Just remember, to get the best results, it doesn’t hurt to throw on that plaid shirt, that’s been gathering dust in the back of your closet, and pop open some brown bottles.