Neil Young
Barn


3.5
great

Review

by Sunnyvale CONTRIBUTOR (64 Reviews)
December 13th, 2021 | 25 replies


Release Date: 12/10/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Still searching for a heart of gold

Classic rock remains in my blood, even as my regular music consumption moves in ever-increasingly diverse directions. While these days I’m typically knee-deep in the wilds of extreme metal or down a rabbit hole delving into some new strand of contemporary indie, a heartfelt tune from one of the 60s or 70s legends still stirs the soul like no other. Ultimately, though, I don’t feel the need to keep up with the recent output of most of the iconic figures of rock’s earlier days. Neil Young is one of the few exceptions to this, as while his later-career material has been spotty, he’s done just enough to keep me engaged with his new releases. Barn is the type of record which makes me glad I’ve kept in the loop.

Something must be said about the album art for Barn , which is both beautiful in its own right and essentially-perfect representation of this record’s essence. The depiction of Neil Young and the three current Crazy Horse musicians posing in front of a rustic barn as the evening sun sets in a quintessential Western scene manages to connote both the music’s simple charms and the aging musicians’ nostalgic themes which infuse these songs.

In the midst of the bleak zeitgeist of modern America (and frankly, the world), with political, social, and environmental factors seeming to push us ever closer to some final catastrophe, there’s something soothing about hearing Young’s familiar voice (and Crazy Horse’s rugged, grunge-before-grunge-existed sound) all over again. This is in spite of the fact that Young (now an American citizen), doesn’t hesitate to ruminate on modern concerns here (likely not a surprise given his highly-public advocacy of staunch environmentalism and anti-Trump positions). Musically, this is a fairly varied listen. There’s a mix of toe-tapping rockers, like “Heading West”, in which Young bellows “heading west to find the good old days” and the grim “Human Race”, and lighter moments like the gorgeous folk-rock of “Song Of The Seasons” and the borderline-mawkish “Don’t Forget Love”, which is redeemed by a strong vocal performance. “Welcome Back” stands alone as by far the longest track, marking the latest installment in Young’s long tradition of guitar-centric epics (think “Cortez The Killer”). This one is a standout, even as it remains surprisingly mellow.

While this review takes a largely positive view, it must be noted that Young’s latest effort simply isn’t destined to be an all-timer. None of the ten songs presented here approach the classics found earlier in the singer-songwriter’s career. With that out of the way, though, on its own terms Barn is a considerable success. First of all, the tunes here are solidly consistent in the good-to-great range, something which can’t necessarily be said about many of Young’s more recent attempts. Beyond that, this is simply a touching listen. Whether it’s an easy-going folk-rock piece or a gritty vintage Crazy Horse rocker, listening to this album summons the feeling of being regaled by a top-tier bar band, with the old men on stage still enjoying their craft, even if time has passed them by (think of an Americana version of the story told in Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing”). If you, like me, have any sliver of affection somewhere in your heart and soul for the old days of rock music, it’s hard to resist, and I suspect that in a certain peculiar mood this album will be a go-to for a long time.



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user ratings (22)
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 13th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not a classic, but this one is pretty tasty. Certainly worth a try for Sputnik's Neil Young fans, or more general Americana aficionados.

deathofasalesman
December 13th 2021


7901 Comments


definitely gonna check this. excellent write-up, sounds like a solid modern neil record

Digging: Korn - Requiem

DePlazz
December 13th 2021


3379 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haven't listened to Neil Young in ages, but your review makes me want to check this out. Feeling the nostalgy here.

theBoneyKing
December 13th 2021


21202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Only gave this one listen so far but I thought “They Might Be Lost” was really great.

Digging: 40 Watt Sun - Perfect Light

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 13th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cheers guys!



@Boney, yeah, that song is great!

WatchItExplode
December 13th 2021


9493 Comments


Seems like might be a nice partner on the snowy winter drive today

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3857 Comments


cool to see that he's still making stuff, and cool read as always!

Digging: yourboyfriendsucks! - Episode 1

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Jesper!

Grungil
December 14th 2021


395 Comments


Great review, specially first paragraph. I will give it a spin once i finish my latest obsession on Indonesian grindcore.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3857 Comments


lol https://twitter.com/Eve6/status/1470395954142466051

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I missed out on the perfect summary, "this album was made in a barn"

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3857 Comments


i raise you: 'still searching for a barn of gold'

Scoot
December 14th 2021


20957 Comments


can't believe he's still going

butt.
December 14th 2021


9316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Anyone else think sounds a bit rough? Like super weak and pitchy. I recall him sounding a bit stronger on the last one

butt.
December 14th 2021


9316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Like the chorus on the first track is kinda hard to listen to

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hmmm, I think he sounds a bit "old and weathered" at times but don't mind it, seems to work with the material to my ears

butt.
December 14th 2021


9316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sometimes it sounds like he’s trying to find the right note to hit but gets a little lost and flails around. It works at times, other times not so much

butt.
December 14th 2021


9316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ah yeah just relistened to Homegrown, leaps and bounds above this I have to say. Production, performance, lyrics, all of it

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2021


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think Homegrown had a few misses but also some fantastic stuff, definitely agree that this doesn't quite have the magic Neil had in his heyday (including Homegrown in that since the songs were compiled in the 70s and not released until last year), but it kinda charms me nonetheless.

Veldin
December 15th 2021


4653 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Neil has kept me engaged in recent years with excellent archived releases like Hitchhiker, Homegrown, and the incredible NYA Boxset 2, while his new material like Colorado and Barn are satisfying, albeit nothing spectacular. His slew of recent live albums have all been really enjoyable as well.



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