Spin Control

October 14, 2007


Neil Young, "Chrome Dreams II" (Reprise) 1 star
When it comes to why, how and when he makes one of his regular musical shifts or chooses to release a particular composition in that style, legendary rocker Neil Young is often inscrutable. In 1977, he scrapped an album called "Chrome Dreams," even though it included early versions of some of his finest

tunes, including "Powderfinger." "Some songs, like 'Ordinary People,' need to wait for the right time," he recently said, referring to an oft-bootlegged 18-minute epic originally recorded for "This Note's for You" (1988). At long last, that song surfaces here, along with several others written and shelved at various points passed, newly recorded by a group featuring one member from each of Young's most famous bands: Ralph Molina (Crazy Horse), Ben Keith (the Stray Gators) and Rick Rosas (the Bluenotes).

The soon-to-be 62-year-old singer and songwriter suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm in the spring of 2005, and with the exception of last year's "Living With War," a spontaneous and timely explosion of righteous political anger, he's been taking stock and looking back at his life and career ever since. Now we get this collection of odds 'n' sods representing several of his different musical incarnations, from full-blown fiery jams (the extraordinary "Ordinary People," the almost as epic "No Hidden Path" and the sublimely grungy "Spirit Road") to gently ambling folk and country musings ("Beautiful Bluebird" and the lovely "Shining Light" among them). And the surprise is that it's as coherent, vital and immediate as any album ol' Neil has ever given us.

What's more, Young has rarely been funnier. "I like to get hammered on Friday night / Sometimes I can't wait, so Monday's alright ... I'm a dirty old man / I do what I can / Trying to make a living / I'm a dirty old man," he sings in "Dirty Old Man." It's a sublimely stupid garage-rock toss-off, to be sure, but for my money, it's vastly superior to Bruce Springsteen's recent, similarly themed "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," or for that matter anything else the Boss has recorded in the last two decades.