Picks and Pans Review: Sleeps with Angels

updated 09/26/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/26/1994 01:00AM

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Having reeled in aging baby-boomer fans with Harvest Moon and Unplugged, Young has gone right back into the garage with his loyal band of musical malcontents, Crazy Horse, to solidify his status as rock's most daring, if confounding, veteran. He and his fellow outlaws rely on their usual distorted guitars and ambient rage. The superb "Change Your Mind" is essentially a "Cowgirl in the Sand" for the '90s, a wide-open guitar jam with ringing choruses and a heartfelt plea for holding on to true love, no matter how complicated a romance becomes. The contemplative "Western Hero" explores what's left of the American soldier's wounded spirit after so many wars and our ambivalence about celebrating his conquests.

But it's the title track that has created the most buzz. "Sleeps with Angels" unfolds against an apocalyptic guitar-crunching backdrop. The song can be seen as an aching farewell to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who quoted some of Young's lyrics ("It's better to burn out/Than to fade away") in his suicide note. While "Angels" is not the album's strongest cut, it does evoke the sense of musical anarchy that was Cobain's artistic touchstone. The spirit and talent of a reluctant grunge star live on in a 48-year-old rocker who refuses to play by the rules. (Reprise)"

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