Album review: Neil Young, Mirror Ball (1995)

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 6, 1995

By Steve Newton

I’ve been a Neil Young fan ever since the Harvest days of the ’70s, when folksy, acoustic-based tunes such as “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man” were the ideal soundtrack to youthful experiments with massive consumption of Old Style in a wood-grained station wagon down by the (Chilliwack) river.

But I really started to groove on Canada’s favourite expatriate when he discovered the screaming beauty of the Les Paul on such Crazy Horse outings as Zuma, American Stars and Bars, and the more recent Ragged Glory.

Now like-minded fans of Young’s underrated electric-guitar talents can rejoice at the release of Mirror Ball, which sees him trading raucous riffs with Pearl Jam string-benders Stone Gossard and Mike McCready on some of his most exhilarating tunes ever.

The entire Pearl Jam lineup accompanies Young on Mirror Ball, actually, so it’s no wonder the thing kicks in spots. PJ singer Eddie Vedder only contributes in a background-vocals capacity, though, wisely leaving Young to put his unforced and unrefined vocal stamp on each tune.

Standout tracks include the chunky, power chord–driven debut single, “Downtown”, the picturesque, high-plains stomper “Big Green Country”, and the gutsy antiviolence ode, “Throw Your Hatred Down”.

But the centrepiece of Mirror Ball is the majestic “I’m the Ocean”, which sails along with a locomotive beauty that holds its own for seven glorious minutes. Young must have known that tune was a winner, because he reprised its stirring melody at the end of the CD in the 70-second coda, “Fallen Angel”.

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