The remarkable output of the 72 year old rock/country grandee Neil Young continues unabated. This, his 39th studio album comes just a few months after organising the release of his Hitchhiker LP (recorded in 1976) and a bare year after the release of Peace Trail. It sees him continue to collaborate with Willy Nelson’s sons, Micah and the band fronted by Lukas Nelson, Promise of the Real.
Like Young’s career this album covers a lot of ground musically. Country, blues, rock and highly distorted grunge are all covered with aplomb along with piano, horns and of course Neil’s own delicate tenor. The opener, Already Great, is typical of the album, a piano-led tune backed by grungy guitar and featuring a searing guitar solo – it’s catchy as hell and I imagine it’ll find a place in the live set.
One thing that stands out for me here is the way that distorted guitar is melded into all kinds of music. The second track for example, Fly By Night Deal, is a clean guitar led tune with the backing vocal carrying the tune while Neil raps his message over the top – suddenly grunge guitar wallops into the middle of the track and sounds like it should have been there all along.
Lyrically speaking the album covers many of Neil Young’s favourites: politics, ecology, equality, protest, hope, etc. It’s fair to say that if you’re a Trump supporter you should probably avoid this one and stick with your 78’s of German marching bands of the 1930s. Everything the American Religious Right holds dear is given a good kicking here and that’s alright with me.
The Visitor rewards repeated listening, with such an extensive mixture of musical styles how could it not? And yet it never sounds bitty, everything is held together by Neil’s voice and lyrics. There’s so much to explore here I think I’ll be listening to this album often over the years hearing new things, re-interpreting lyrics and seeing how Neil’s vision holds up against the future.
This is an immensely likeable album that will, of course, be ignored by the mass media. What could someone like Neil Young have to contribute when you have the talents of musical prostitutes, Little Mix, et al. to report on?