Neil Young’s restless muse has now lead him to, of all things, lounge soul. Recorded with backup from organist Booker T. Jones and his fellow MGs, the offhand Are You Passionate? is an eccentric record even by Young standards. Whether doling out ersatz vintage Motown (”You’re My Girl,” ”Be With You”) or having a one-on-one with God in ”Two Old Friends,” he hasn’t been this off-the-wall in years.
As always, Young conveys moments of tender beauty (the wistful title song). And his vocal cords seem remarkably undamaged after years of use and abuse. But too many of the songs and swoony love lyrics float away in the breeze, and a still-rumbling Crazy Horse can’t completely compensate for the overly familiar Old West references in the anticorporate parable ”Goin’ Home.” ”Are You Passionate?” scores points for daring yet falls short of its own passionately lofty goals.