Neil Young Alan Lewis - Essay

Alan Lewis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Let the buyer beware: "Journey Through The Past" is not The New Neil Young Album in any meaningful sense.

It's a ragbag collection of old Buffalo Springfield and CSNY 'live' cuts, and tapes from the "Harvest" session, seemingly salvaged from the cutting-room floor, all stitched together with snatches of conversation, a bit of community singing, a few sound effects, and a speech, courtesy of President Nixon. There's only one new song.

The justification for all this is that it forms the soundtrack of Young's autobiographical film of the same name. As a souvenir of the film, maybe the album stands up…. But taken on its own merits, this album is messy and frustrating, and hardly a worthy account of the musical past of one of our most interesting artists.

It's sad that two of the most satisfying tracks are not by Young at all….

The album doesn't tell us much that we don't already know about Young…. It simply underlines the themes that have already emerged in his songs, especially his despair at straight America and his blood-and-fire vision of The South (the album cover, with its Ku Klux Klan riders, echoes the words of "Southern Man" and "Alabama").

You could argue that this album is as mysterious, incomplete and inexplicit as the songs of the man himself. If so, you may dig it. Personally I think it smacks of self indulgence and laziness. Young has never been the most prolific writer but surely a few new songs would not have been too much to expect? They would have been worth far more than most of the overblown, repetition contained here.

Alan Lewis, "Neil, Was the Journey Really Necessary?" in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), December 2, 1972, p. 24.