26 September 2023


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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Reprise Records/Warner Music Australia 2021.

A couple of years ago Bruce Springsteen released a live album recorded in a barn.

It was largely acoustic, he was accompanied by a small chamber orchestra, and it was a highly polished performance.

Now we have Neil Young’s version of the same concept but the execution and principles underlying it are quite different.

Neil Young’s album Barn is a multi-disciplinary approach through music and film that captures Young and his good mates in Crazy Horse in experimentation and improvisation mode.

The film is directed by Young’s wife Daryl Hannah, and it allows us access to the creative process of a working band made up of friends who are familiar with each other’s skills and techniques.

It reveals the easy and relaxed nature of their personal relationships and work.

The songs they develop are wonderful but not perfectly executed because we are experiencing musicians in creative and experimental mode.

The film clip for the penultimate song Welcome Back gives us a great insight to how they work as a band.

We see Young almost caressing his guitar as he searches for the right notes to capture the emotion he’s feeling while the other band members playing along and watching closely for cues.

And even the great ones hit an occasional bum note or two.

There is a rawness to the album that is alluring in a world where far too much music has been dehumanised by overproduction, autocorrection, digitalisation, sampling and multi-takes searching for perfection.

As I’ve stated many times before, humans are not machines.

Their timing is never 100% accurate.

Their pitch is rarely if ever perfect.

It is these subtle differences that bring music alive.

While Neil and his engineers have set the barn up as a working studio none of the above-mentioned studio fudges are employed.

The equipment faithfully records what the musicians are playing, that’s all, and that’s enough.

All of this will not surprise Neil Young fans, he embraces reality and rawness and the rustic setting just reinforces this.

Real music in a real setting played by top class musicians searching for intellectual and emotional truth.

Composing, writing, and shaping as they go.

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