During his long and varied career Canadian singer Neil Young has made a lot of records (including around a dozen unreleased albums) encompassing a variety of styles and covering all manner of subject matter.
Some of these are successful and / or classic – “Harvest” and “Freedom” are but two. There are also the less successful – 2014’s “A Letter Home” recorded in a 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording booth, what was that all about?!?
“The Monsanto Years”, his fifth studio album in the past 36 months, is a full-on protest record. Recorded with backing from Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micha and their band Promise Of The Real.
Not exclusively about the Monsanto organisation, Young also takes issue with Starbucks and Walmart, this is an angry sounding record.
I’ve read pieces of Monsanto that have come up on my Facebook feed in the past, and I realise that they are a particularly divisive entity due to their work in the field of Genetically Modified Organisms and food crops. Now, I’m no expert and don’t know enough to declare myself definitively on either side of the fence, but I do, “romantically” at least, tend to have more sympathy for letting Mother Nature get on and do her thing without the human race thinking it knows best all the time. Then again you might argue that maybe both Young and I are turning into grumpy old men?
In terms of the album, though, this isn’t classic Neil Young but it’s far from a low point in his catalogue either. Some of the tracks suffer from something of a lack of focus and under the weight of the lyrics – almost like they’re not quite the finished article. There are some gems, though. “People Want To Hear About Love” is easily the best and most catchy track here, and “Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop” follows closely behind in the hummable stakes. Not great, but a long way from bad and the sentiment surely gives the whole thing extra weight…
1. A New Day For Love / 2. Wolf Moon / 3. People Want To Hear About Love / 4. Big Box / 5. A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop / 6. Workin’ Man / 7. Rules Of Change / 8. Monsanto Years / 9. If I Don’t Know