"The overall effect is hypnotic, mesmeric – a musical montage that has no start or end point": Neil Young's Before And After

Before And After finds Neil Young turning acoustic re-recordings of some of his past songs into a single music montage

Neil Young - Before And After cover art
(Image: © Reprise)

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Another month, another Neil Young album. 

This one is a little different, though: for his new album, Young covers a variety of songs from his vast back catalogue – from Buffalo Springfield’s plaintive Burned (1966) to his recent plea for harmony, Don’t Forget Love (2021) – on acoustic, solo, one song merging into the next. The overall effect is hypnotic, mesmeric – a musical montage that has no start or end point.

This is Young’s 45th studio album, co-produced with Lou Adler (think Carole King’s 1972 album Tapestry), and his flame shows no sign of dimming. Old favourites such as Mr. Soul and Comes A Time alongside lesser-known cuts, become almost mantra-like, droning and highly resonant, imbued with the aching of years. Birds stands out, with its cascading harmonies, as does A Dream That Can Last (from 1994’s Kurt Cobain-inspired Sleeps With Angels), and there’s one new song If You Got Love, which wails like a good ‘un.

Perhaps not the new studio recording some were hoping for, but a fascinating and compelling deep dive into Young’s past.

Everett True

Everett True started life as The Legend!, publishing the fanzine of that name and contributing to NME. Subsequently he wrote for some years for Melody Maker, for whom he wrote seminal pieces about Nirvana and others. He was the co-founder with photographer Steve Gullick of Careless Talk Costs Lives, a deliberately short-lived publication designed to be the antidote to the established UK music magazines.