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Neil Young: Storytone

Thirty-fifth studio release from Canada’s foremost Americana troubadour.

Even by his own capricious standards, this has been a full-pelt year for Young. He divorced his wife of 36 years and ran off with a famous mermaid (Splash actress Daryl Hannah), recorded a covers album in Jack White’s Voice-o-Graph, started a painting career, wrote a book, set up a music downloading service…

What we weren’t expecting, after all that, was a lavish set of soft-Americana originals, mostly recorded with a choir and 92-piece orchestra – all repeated, in solo form, on a second disc. Super-smooth strings, bluesy stomps and immense righteousness (standing up to “the big machine”, “fracking”…) are crammed into this varied, if oddly disparate selection.

The likes of Who’s Gonna Stand Up? offer luxurious pockets of lovelorn intimacy, while Say Hello To Chicago suddenly introduces big band swing, offsetting the sweet, pastoral (if slightly benign) swirls of balladic numbers.

As for Young’s voice? The years have basically been kind (as kind as they can be to a man who was never exactly renowned for his stellar pipes), though wavering waffles about love, elks and tumbleweeds etc do teeter between exquisite and painful at times. Even if the unexpected line ‘Bite me now, with your confusion’ in Tumbleweed is hilarious./o:p