Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Neil Young ~ Are You Passionate?

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Style: soul, funk, classic rock, Canadian, folk-rock
Label: Reprise
Year: 2002
Home: n/a

Members: Neil Young ~ guitar/piano/vocals
Booker T. Jones ~ organ/vibes/b. vocals
Donald Duck Dunn ~ bass/b. vocals
Steve Potts ~ drums/bongos/tambourine
Frank Sampedro ~ guitar/b. vocals

Additional: Tom Bray ~ trumpet
Pegi Young, Astrid Young ~ b. vocals
Billy Talbot ~ bass
Ralph Molina ~ drums/b. vocals



For some reason the title of this album fills me with more worry than not. It's beside the fact it doesn't rate on the list of oft mentioned NY albums, as NY is indeed passionate in his music, though via his unique socially minded, sometimes spiritual & sometimes drug influenced lens. He is passionate by not being deliberately gushy love song passionate, so to let us know what he's feeling right with the title puts me on guard with worry. "You're My Girl" opens the album with a 1960's Motown/Stax guitar backbeat that rhythmically goes nowhere with all the melodic movement in the organ & bass line & is NY in an experimental moment that's a bit discerning. Yet for another album he's trying for something incredibly far from his comfort zone on so many levels & as has happened before & since the good results are few though the idea looks good on paper. You can't fault NY for always trying & not caring about his career with far more musical experiments that most bands attempt to the point of being more unpredictable than Madonna or Bob Dylan. "You're My Girl" is a nice filler song, but the fact that the rest of the album continues in the same musical vein & all songs basically end up sounding like this opener makes the anti-climactic factor & overall disappointment high. This is NY doing 1960's R&B/funk with very little to make it his own. His jagged guitar solos that go on endlessly are gone replaced by quasi-melodic tame little glimmers. Comparing this album to his later work with Pearl Jam NY doesn't even sound like he's having fun or feeling particularly creative beyond just wanting to share with his listeners his wonderment with classic funk rock, a genre far from his own folk rock roots. While any lyrical wonders, which is usually where NY can make-up for any bad musical choices, are completely lost in an arching melodramatic mood of too much passion for one album. NY has soul, but when he tries to play soul, even with a top notched band that are experts & pioneers in the genre, it's a strange sell that is too tame for its own good. The only thing that makes this album distinct is the fact of who that top notched band is. Co-producing with NY is part of the legendary Stax house band in famed organist Booker T. Jones & bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, also known as Booker T. & The MG's & who were both featured in the Blues Brothers films as the house backing band & with the Motown crew in Chicago created the funk/soul sound. Drummer Steve Potts has been a member of the reunited band since 2002. For two funk musicians that decades earlier were trendsetters here they've played this style so much they can do it in their sleep & that's what it sounds like. Nobody is driving anybody anywhere overly creative, only overly old hat & passionately maudlin. This is sad as NY had been engaging Jones & Dunn as his backing band while touring throughout the previous decade, but there's not much interplay here to make that evident. Perhaps doing other songs from NY's catalog the trio grooves, but here the songwriting provides little creative space. It would be more interesting to hear a typical NY folk album with this line-up, instead of a one & only NY soul/funk album. But, when you play with the legendary Booker T. & The MG's who doesn't want to play soul? You kinda can't blame NY for trying.

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