Music review

Greendale, the new CD from Neil Young, definitely continues the mystery and awe from his devotees and critics, and is clearly a new direction for Young.

Young refers to this production as a “Music Novel.” Others are calling it a rock opera. He screened the movie version of Greendale – a major creative step for him – at the Toronto Film Festival.

Here he tells a story about “Grandpa” and his family and the Double E ranch. Young offers a booklet with the CD that gives thumbnail descriptions of each cut, but much of the happenings are still within the lyrics and music.

On the Neil Young website, www.neilyoung.com, which he refers to on the CD jacket, you can retrieve the complete lyrics of each song.

The music on the CD is quintessential Neil Young. From the opening guitar to the end, it would seem that nothing is new. But, there are plenty of new lyrics on this CD.

From the opening song, “Falling From Above,” Young talks of “Rollin’ through the fighting; rollin’ through the religious wars; rollin’ down the temple walls; and, the church’s exposed sores.” Young is looking way back to find some meaning to the present. Maybe that is why “grandpa,” with his long history on earth, is used. His sings about a “little love and affection” in the first song, which references his flower-child roots, but he is clearly more angry these days.

In “Leave The Driving” Young makes his statement for gun control. His description here of the unfortunate killing of a policeman, “Carmichael,” by Jed who “was one of ours,” shows the importance of gun control for everyone. The lives of Jed and Carmichael appear in the following songs.

The press doesn’t escape his angry comments in the song, “Grandpa’s Interview.”

Sun Green, the granddaughter of grandpa takes over in the last two songs. She is angry and is “makin’ waves.” Sun is particularly angry at the lies being told her. “She chained herself to a statue of an eagle in the lobby of the power company.” She yelled there is corruption on the “highest floors.”

Her repeated refrains, “Hey Mr. Clean, you’re dirty now, too,” probably refers to all big-time, powerful people, including the White House. Sun is particularly angry at the FBI, which followed her and “trashed her room.” The FBI agent shot her cat and left it “Lyin’ in a puddle of blood at the foot of Sun Green’s bed.”

Make no mistake on Young’s intentions: at concerts, photos of George Bush, John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge are show on the giant screens.

Greendale comes to a crashing crescendo with his final song, “Be The Rain.” Here he attacks “big oil” and other polluters. But, he just doesn’t complain about the out-of-control big logging corporations that are killing our trees; he is siding with the hunters, fisherman and farmers who are being attacked by “corporate greed and chemicals” that are “killin’ the land.”

His chorus: “we got to wake up; we got to keep goin’, if they follow us; there’s no way of knowin,” a clear reference to Ashcroft. “We got a job to do; we got to; save mother earth.”

This CD is Neil Young’s call to arms. Coming from a mega-star, it will have an impact. Let’s hope that this Canadian-born artist keeps on track for years to come. He will join a long list of north-of-the-border performers who are trying to help the U.S. to become less greedy and more humane.

No wonder reviews were mixed. Clearly the anti-political reviewers are not happy with this turn of events; while others, perhaps, are looking for more.

– Eric Green (pww@pww.org)

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