Thu Oct 11 2007
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
The homey placidness of 2005’s Prairie Wind notwithstanding, it seems unlikely that Neil Young’s recordings will ever settle into the classy twilight vibe of recent Bob Dylan efforts. This disc—a sequel of sorts to a legendary unreleased record from the ’70s—combines a folksy mood with the same shaggy immediacy that fueled last year’s Living with War. Its grab-bag aesthetic, veering wildly between the inspired and the mundane, just might outweird even the curious psychodrama that was Greendale.
Chrome Dreams II leads off with two lovely rootsy songs that should delight Harvest fans. But then any semblance of stability vanishes. First performed in the ’80s but officially unissued till now, “Ordinary People” is a serious showstopper: an 18-minute panorama of American need and greed replete with a swaggering horn chorus and a Lee Iacocca name check. Sure, the piece is sprawling and occasionally pretentious, but it’s also gritty and hugely affecting. Unfortunately the record has no real second act to speak of. Its midsection is split between the pleasant yet slight (“The Believer”) and the raucous yet vapid (“Dirty Old Man”). Of the remainders, “No Hidden Path” throws a bone to fans of Young’s fuzzy electric jams, and the kiddie-chorus-abetted “The Way” has the haunting simplicity of a nursery rhyme. Neil diehards may find meaning in these enigmatic depths, but the rich pleasures of a piece like “Ordinary People” are right on the surface.