Neil Young with Crazy Horse—Colorado (Reprise Records)

Colorado, the latest album from Neil Young with Crazy Horse, is a tour de force and return to form for Young. The album marks his first album in seven years with the garage rock/proto-grunge group that Young first assembled 50 years ago for his 1969 LP Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Their last work together was 2012’s praiseworthy Psychedelic Pill, but Colorado is in a different category altogether, with songs that are steeped deep in piss and vinegar, and characterized by the raw, in-the-moment motif of the Horse.

The album comes at a time when the stockpile of goodwill that Young has built up between fans and himself has been put to the test. Yes, he’s been prolific throughout the last decade, releasing an album nearly every year since 2010. His recent works with Promise of the Real, if anything, prove that Young still remains in-the-know when it comes to young artists—just as he illustrated in the nineties by sharing his affinity for bands like Sonic Youth, Social Distortion, and, of course, Pearl Jam, using his revered name to shine a light on bourgeoning talent, taking them on tour with him and making records with them. But, the end result of Young’s recent albums have been lackluster at worst and hit-or-miss at best. So, to that end, Colorado truly stands on its own as Young’s best work in 30 years.

The 13 minutes of “She Showed Me Love” may be a bit droning for the casual listener, but the music of Neil Young and Crazy Horse has never been about the casual listener. Connoisseurs will easily take note that the track has a spirit animal in “Barstool Blues,” a deep cut from Young and Crazy Horse’s 1975 LP, Zuma, but its crashing finale finds Young and the Horse producing some of their best quality jams since 1996’s Big Time. On “Olden Days,” Young does what he does best as a songwriter: lyrically documenting the conversations he has with himself, reflecting on a life filled with love, loss, confusion, and hope—and although this is simply speculation—Young appears to be speaking to his late wife, Pegi—who passed away from cancer in January of this year—in a dream (the couple divorced in 2014). 

Throughout Colorado, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina are sharp as tacks, and guitarist Nils Lofgren finds the pocket between the rhythm section and Young, cranking up the volume and serving as the glue that holds the reckless abandon of his band mates together. As for Young himself, he still remains dedicated to writing about climate change, moral decay, and societal indifference, just as much as he has on his recent efforts. But, whereas previous material has sounded whiney and flat, the sheer volume and unapologetic audacity of the Horse turn limp finger-wags into full-blown rally cries. Simply put, Young’s heart is certainly in the right place, but he needs Crazy Horse to hammer home the reality of dire circumstances.

4 Stars