On one level, this is just another Neil Young live album where he does some of his slow whiny ones and some of his lengthy squealy-guitar rock-outs and enjoys himself greatly, not especially concerned whether you do too. But on another, it’s weird and astonishing. Because he’s overlaid some (not all) tracks with the sounds of animals and insects – birds, bears, crickets, bees, wolves – so it’s like listening to a typical Neil album while sitting in a densely populated zoo.
At first it’s disorientating, but gradually – it’s 90 minutes long – it becomes mesmeric, relaxing and not unlike a Laurie Anderson or Brian Eno ‘sound installation’. Maybe more albums should have wildlife and weather noises interrupting them.
Earth was recorded during last year’s tour with Willie Nelson’s sons’ band The Promise Of The Real, and revamps tracks from the contemporaneous album The Monsanto Years, 1990’s Ragged Glory, Vampire Blues from On The Beach and even After The Goldrush. They all reference the environment or the planet, in Young’s view. Closing with half an hour of Love And Only Love which thrashes away like Cortez The Killer then devolves into random echoes and a fair bit of squawking and tweeting, it’s animal crackers.