Here comes Neil Young, one of rock’s hardiest (and most unpredictable) survivors, reunited with Crazy Horse, the band he’s worked with on and off since 1969, singing songs with substance that goes far deeper than their sometimes obvious lyrics.
”I guess I need that city light/It sure has lots of style,” he drawls near the start of ”Country Home,” his opening cut. ”But pretty soon it wears me out/And I have to think to smile.” The sentiment is, to put it mildly, familiar, and so are Young’s thoughts throughout Ragged Glory. ”White Line” brings us musings on troubled romance, from the tried-and-true perspective of a good ol’ boy ”rollin’ down the open road” in the dark night just before dawn. In ”Love to Burn,” Young — sounding shaky — urges us to ”take a chance on love.”
But familiar ideas aren’t quite the whole story. Young’s guitar lopes along beside his voice, sounding faithful and fuzzy, but also nervous and shivering. It evokes a vein of trouble lying just beneath the skin of the songs, giving them depth enough to be 7, 8, and in two cases even 10 minutes long. Each song ends with a chord (not always the one you’d expect) that just sits there, grinding its teeth, slowly dissolving in feedback. It’s as if the mask of everyday life were stripped away, and trouble stood nakedly exposed.
Two songs go even further. In ”Mother Earth” — an environmental warning recorded live last April at the most recent Farm Aid — there’s peaceful vocal harmony accompanied only by Young’s guitar, symbolically suggesting rich green hills and the decay that threatens them. ”F*!#in’ Up,” the album’s most memorable track, is a veritable anthem to trouble. ”Why do I hide?” Young keeps asking. ”Why do I keep f—in’ up?” Life can be dangerous; Young owns up to the danger, and still dares wear his heart on his sleeve.A-