This discography analysis is written by contributor JT of Perth, Australia. Follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter.
Are You Passionate? (2002) Spotify
1) 'You're My Girl' - OK, so heaps of people will point out that it's basically an updated version of 'I Can't Turn You Loose', well at least musically it could be. Well that's where the comparisons should stop, because any other comparisons between that classic and this largely forgotten lukewarm opening to a less-than-lukewarm album just aren't fair. Sorry Wilcoinator, I don't dig this song at all. Neil's vocals are done, and all that's left for him to do to sound like the Neil Young of old is to adopt this half-wheeze. Other problems arise, but they don't really matter too much when the song never really gets off the ground. It sounds good though... it's just not good to listen to - you get my drift. 4.0
2) 'Mr. Disappointment' - Well, I will say this - Neil hasn't lost the touch on Old Black. His tone here, outside of his work with Crazy Horse, is some of the best I've heard from him. Again, the problem here isn't the sound of the song, isn't the guitar playing - it's the song itself. This sounds like a rejected Greendale demo. Plus, it gets a little creepy when you keep thinking to yourself that Neil's singing "I'd like to shave your head", instead of "I;d like to shake your hand". A little better, but not much. 5.0
3) 'Differently' - Disappointing. Neil kicks it off with a great guitar riff and then mixes it with a wussy love song. Keep the riff going you old bastard! I wanna rock out! I don't want Booker T. Jones wasting himself with minimal fills that are about 1/1000th as cool as the ones he did with Stax! Bring back your balls and make me wanna get up and do something. Oh yeah, the backing vocals here are awful too. 4.0
4) 'Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)' - This is getting a bit better. Neil's voice isn't exactly as wussified, and the song swings along nicely. The problem is that I don't think Neil's that great at writing love songs. I don't think he's at his best when trying to write to some formula, and that's where this album is so far failing. But here's hoping it gets better. 5.5
5) 'Let's Roll' - Anyone else think this sounds musically like an outtake from The Wall? No? Just me then? OK. This song gets a lot of crap, and people seem to think that in the "Neil writes in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy" the score stands currently at 1-1. But I don't think it's too bad at all. Many artists were going to pen songs in the aftermath of 9/11, and of the many horrible 'songs' that were vomited onto the public, this is far from the worst. In fact, I'm prepared to say I like this song. So there you go. 7.0
6) 'Are You Passionate?' - This works. Neil's voice is still a bit whiny for my liking, but he's getting back to that classic sound we know. This starts out a little slow and doesn't seem as though it'll ever pick up, but when it does it works and it works crazy well. Sure, this doesn't sizzle like some of the classics, but sue me - I like it. 7.5
7) 'Goin' Home' - Fuck, I was so disappointed when I heard this. You see, Neil had played this every night of his 2001 European Tour with Crazy Horse and sometimes even played it twice a show, almost as though he was touting it as the next big Neil Young classic tune. It fuckin' rocked and would wind up so much you expected it to just explode in a mess (but never did). To listen to this version, recorded before the tour at Toast studios with the Horse, sucks the life out of you. This is embyonic in every way. The live versions in 2001 were fully-blown freak outs that deserve to reach the wider public. This is a great song, one of the best he's written in the last 10 years, but this take isn't the one to convince you of that. 7.5
8) 'When I Hold You In My Arms' - Another good song that never threatens to be great. But these days, you take these songs whenever you get them. Simple, minimal and all Neil. Can't ask for too much more sometimes. Shocking backing vocals though. 13 random cats could've done better. 6.5
9) 'Be With You' - This could be a good song. Instead it's a partial re-write of 'You're My Girl', except with a bit more zeal. I'll say it now (as if you didn't really know already), I don't like 'Neil the soulful tunesmith'. It really is boring. I like Neil the 'what the fuck is he going to do next to break my balls' way. This is about as far from that as possible. Whoever told Neil that a song that sounds like The Supremes would be a good idea? 4.5
10) 'Two Old Friends' - I just woke up after being sent to sleep by this song. I'll be blunt - this song sucks. It really is shit and I don't think I can ever listen to it again. Songs like this make you wish the Hall of Fame could take back awards sometimes. 2.0
11) 'She's a Healer' - At least he finishes it off well. Even though I keep expecting this song to rise to a level it never reaches, I still enjoy listening to it lope along. "All I got is a broken heart, and I don't try to hide it when I play my guitar". Great fuckin' line and a massively positive note to end the album on. Best song on the album. 7.5
ALBUM RATING: 5.0
VERDICT: This is a long album, and despite the presence of a few very good songs, it just drains the life out of you, and not in the good way. I really can't be enthused to write about something so ordinary, something that makes you feel like you've aged two years by the end of it. The songs aren't as horrible as others, but the collective result is just plain bad.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Greendale (2003) Spotify
1) 'Falling From Above' - Kicking off with something which sounds like an electrified version of a Harvest Moon track, Greendale perplexes. Its scope is daunting however only rarely do the songs ring home. 'Falling From Above' is not one of those songs. Sounding more like an idea than a fully-fledged song and with an uninspired version of Crazy Horse, it could've used a little more... I don't know. A little more of something perhaps... 4.0
2) 'Double E' - Better. Sounding like the bar band they are at heart, Neil rings some great notes out of Old Black, but such is the case with most of the songs on this album, it's probably a bit too long. I don't know how long it goes for, and I don't care because a song can be twenty minutes and not be long enough, but this song just goes too long. OK, I checked, it goes for 5:19 and that doesn't seem long, but by the end I was checking my watch. Great little sing-along at the end there. 6.0
3) 'Devil's Sidewalk' - This sounds like a left-over from the American Stars 'n Bars era. One that would've been recorded but never would have been considered for the album, not in a million years. There's a difference between simple and simplistic, and here Neil strays towards the latter, resulting in - how can I say this - an extremely uninteresting song. I just mustn't get this album at all. 3.5
4) 'Leave the Driving' - People can try all they want - this is just the same song as 'Devil's Sidewalk' and it shits me. Neil's completely lost the ability to come up with a memorable hook, melody or even an interesting story. This is terrible, and don't try to tell me the Greendale story is memorable. Nothing's memorable when it's this boring. 3.0
5) 'Carmichael' - This is getting really easy to write about. Although this has a slight little twist. Musically, this isn't bad at all (it lopes, to be sure, but Neil lopes better than most), but lyrically and melodically it's a trainwreck. Hopefully I'm not the only person disillusioned by all this. 10 minutes of this is far too much, btw. 5.5
6) 'Bandit' - Again, this shi... Hang on. This is not only good, this is great. Where the hell did this come from? The only song so far that I can actually be interested in. Love the guitar sound, love the gruffness in Neil's voice, love Ralph's playing and Billy's completely disinterested bass playing. Take this song away from the album and it still stands up. Easily the best song on the album. Nothing even gets close. 9.0
7) 'Grandpa's Interview' - Again, this lopes along. For just under thirteen minutes. Not all of those minutes were necessary or called for, but I suppose we have to take them. Again, there's not much melody in the lyrics, but at least there's a litte bit and Neil seems to give a shit. Is it me or does this whole fuckin' album sound like demos that you would scrap? 6.0
8) 'Bringin' Down Dinner' -
1) I HATE THAT FUCKING PUMP ORGAN AND WISH IT WOULD DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH.
2) PLUG YOUR GUITAR IN AND ROCK THE FUCK OUT SO MUCH THAT YOU GIVE YOURSELF EPILEPTIC SEIZURES.
3) ENOUGH WITH THE MENTIONS OF MOTHER FUCKING EARTH.
9) 'Sun Green' - Sounds like someone I'd break up with. If this is her anthem then I guess she's just annoying and boring, taking 12 minutes to say what I could say in four words - "I don't like you". 3.5
10) 'Be the Rain' - Hokey. Cheesy. Annoying. Pretty damn good. This one rocks at least, as opposed to the majority of the album, so I'm more inclined to listen with a more open pair of ears. Sure the megaphone vocals are more annoying than nearly anything else in the history of mankind - but they don't ruin the song at least. 7.0
ALBUM RATING: 4.5
VERDICT: Guilty on all counts. This album's a trainwreck. But only here. Live it took on another life. I never saw the stage shows, but I heard quite a few of them and for the best representation of the album, you needed to get the version of Greendale which came with a bonus DVD with the Dublin performance of Neil's 2003 acoustic tour of Europe. Neil explains the album in between songs, telling stories and expanding on the characters. I still don't care about it, but it's better than the album - which is just terrible and uninspired (except for 'Bandit' of course).
NEXT: 'Get Back to the Country'