Picks and Pans Review: Hawks & Doves
Nixon had Sammy Davis Jr., Carter had Willie Nelson, and Reagan may have—Neil Young. Consider the title cut's lyrics: "Ready to go, willin' to stay and pay/U.S.A., U.S.A./So my sweet wife can dance another free day/U.S.A., U.S.A." If this sounds more like the work of a GOP speech-writer than the man who wrote Ohio and Southern Man, it may be some indication that New Wave is giving way to flag wave. The album is red, white and blue in every aspect, from jacket design to patriotic metaphors. While these anthems incorporate Young's wit and literary talents, they don't seem intended as ironic. Union Man, for example, is a musical "right to work" manifesto. It depicts a dopey musicians' union in which one member suggests an ungrammatical bumper sticker reading: "Live Music Are Better." The most telling—and complex—tune is The Old Homestead, about a rider on a noble but crazy horse buffeted by unseen powers. Is Young urging other travelers of his generation to stay in the saddle? The music is fine, with pleasant melodies propelled by Band veteran Levon Helm's drumwork and Tom Scribner on the saw. Even the recording was done from sea to shining sea in studios in Florida, New York, Tennessee and California. Let's not worry about the fact Young was born in Canada.