Review: Neil Young reflects on environment on ‘World Record’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — “World Record,” Neil Young (Reprise)

Neil Young and his longtime band Crazy Horse return to a favorite topic with “World Record,” a double entendre title for an album that not-so-subtlety focuses squarely on the fate of the environment.

This is 76-year-old Neil Young in full-on Earth/grandfather rocker mode. And while it could have easily turned into a crotchety rant, “World Record” is really more of an optimistic exhortation.

“Love Earth/we can bring the seasons back,” Young sings on “Love Earth,” a gentle romp that almost feels like it could be sung around a campfire. ”Love Earth/can you imagine that?”

The centerpiece of the 10-track collection is the 15-minute “Chevrolet,” a reflection by the noted gear-head Young about his changing relationship with the automobile in the face of climate change.

“How will it comfort me/burnin’ all that fuel again?” he wistfully sings over a heavily distorted lead guitar and signature Crazy Horse sound. “Gone is crowded highway/Lost are the roads we left behind.”

Young has been singing about the fate of our world for more than half a century in the face of climate change, global economic forces and environmentalism. He sang about mother nature being on the run in 1970’s “After the Gold Rush,” and in more recent years his message has become more urgent, direct and sometimes clumsy — see 2014’s “The Monsanto Years.”

In an effort to keep things fresh, Young and Crazy Horse recorded “World Record” live in the studio without any instrumentation in mind. The end result, co-produced by Rick Rubin, is predictably esoteric for Young, an artist who revisits common themes but seemingly never in quite the same way each time — for better or for worse.

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