Burning with passion for political and social justice in the world, Neil Young has captivated audiences for decades with his pertinent music style. With a soulful sound and relevant lyrical combinations–of which heavily inspired bands like Pearl Jam–Young has continued to captivate the audience with his music.
As the times have changed this year, Young’s audience has consisted of several dogs, a cat and some disinterested chickens in his home in Colorado. Though for a series of endearing sets, Young’s Fireside Sessions have captured his touring for the year 2020. Posted on his peculiar high-resolution streaming site, Neil Young Archives, his newest music contains the nostalgia and intrigue of Young as a musician.
For people’s listening pleasure, Young has cooked up some homemade tunes with his new EP, The Times. Strummed with soul, culture and political impact, this album is a new-meets-old of his classic repertoire. This album is a selection of tunes from his entire catalog, with a few select tunes with topical and social consciousness. Recorded on an iPad in his series of July Fireside Sessions, the sound is starkly homemade, but contains the lo-fi modernity that puts this album into the year 2020.
Originally from his 1972 album Harvest, “Alabama” is a stunning acoustic story with a powerful modern sound. Similar in style but much more dominant, “Ohio” is his newest rendition of his original 1970s protest anthem against the National Guard’s murder of four Kent State students that year. As it has always been, this song is short and has a powerful bite. Compiled with the soul of a real protest, this song is as relevant now as it was in 1970– minus the protest reason. This song aged well, along with Young’s moving vocals.
“Campaigner” travels a different route, one of rooted political angst from former President Richard Nixon. Young expressed in an open letter earlier this year his hatred for current President Donald Trump and immediately after recorded a rare live rendition of this song. Now recorded with the intimate lo-fi sound of an iPad, this song strikes a personal note in the listener. The song’s depth remains relevant, and the music is genuine in this political climate.
To follow his anti-Trump agenda, “Lookin’ For a Leader 2020” is Young’s updated rendition of the 2006 hit, “Lookin’ For a Leader.” Infused with lyrics about Black Lives Matter, this song definitely confirms Young’s commitment to justice through his music. Though while already a Grammy-nominated track, this song is too specific–it’s too righteous, which covers the message that was already strong enough.
Made ever-so-famous by Bob Dylan (during his American folk acoustic fame), “The Times They Are A-Changin’” is a bit slowed down, with a minuscule amount of Dylan’s folk style. Though aged slightly, this song does well considering its righteous message and lo-fi sound. While covered by almost every relatively “folk” group in the last century, this song isn’t done the justice it deserves. While beautiful considering the format, it seems almost forced upon people with a political message. This is also the case with “Southern Man,” which was once a rock classic but denatured from the transformation over the years.
His last track, “Little Wing,” from his 1980 album Hawks & Doves, feathers down the righteousness of this EP. While folk in its genre, the song is very enigmatic already. Young’s iPad version seems to cut some of the depth from the recording, though strangely enough, it builds gradual suspense with pitch cutoffs and muffled vocals.
Young has always been a pacesetter for rock music. Inspiring generations of musicians, his style is unmatched, or poorly renditioned, in the modern era. This technologically subdued album lacks his classic level of soul, which he has continuously produced with or without a band. But its righteousness in style is prime Neil Young that is effortless and genuine.