Neil Young’s latest studio album, Colorado, was recorded mostly live over 11 days in the Rocky Mountains of the same name. It’s Young’s first release with Crazy Horse in seven years. The addition of Nils Lofgren who replaced Frank Sampedro on guitar, was an inspired inclusion by Young. Lofgren adds texture and depth to the bands sound which is exemplary throughout.
The problem with the album is not the music, but the quality of the songs which are largely unmemorable. Neil Young is not at his best when, thematically, he focuses on political and environmental issues. More often than not, the lyrics and sentiments expressed (for instance, ‘Shut It Down’) come across as clumsy, heavy-handed and, for the most, part insincere (think Living With War). Here, Young is merely repeating himself.
The album’s opener, ‘Think Of Me’ is reminiscent of ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’ from Silver And Gold and is arguably the best song on the album. ‘She Showed Me Love’ is an eclectic rambling jam echoing the longer workouts on Psychedelic Pill. The seemingly telepathic interplay between the musicians is something that fans have come to expect from Crazy Horse that was lacking with Promise Of The Real in previous releases. Here, Nils Lofgren shines. And while the harmonies are impressive, there is, however, an overriding weariness in the message.
‘Olden Days’ is pretty much a straightforward ballad – a pleasant enough song with a nice counterpoint and Velvet Underground -style ‘shuffle’ rhythm. But, unfortunately, Young’s vocals can no longer cut it on this kind of piece.
Young and the band rock out in ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ which hints at 1996s Broken Arrow. With ‘Green Is Blue’, Young’s anger gives way to a fragility and melancholia befitting of Prairie Wind. In fact, redemption and rage are never far from Young’s psychological universe. The way he shift gears emotionally reflects a neurosis he often displays not merely *between* albums but also *within* them. Colorado is an illustration of the latter.
Stylistically, ‘Milky Way’ is basically an amalgam of elements of Greendale, Zuma and Sleeps With Angels. It’s gentle and tender underbelly, however, cannot disguise the fact that the song is not very good. ‘Eternity’ has echoes of ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’, while ‘Rainbow Of Colors’, draws strongly from George Harrison’s ‘Behind That Locked Door’.
Young closes the record with the delicate and highly personal ‘I Do’. Here his vocal limitations actually add to the songs emotional impact. The track wouldn’t of sounded out of place on one of his early 1970s albums.
Colorado, despite its flaws, is Young’s best album since Psychedelic Pill.