Picks and Pans Review: Broken Arrow

UPDATED 07/22/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/22/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT

Neil Young with Crazy Horse

The thrill, and occasional frustration, of Young's twisting, swerving career has been his creative capriciousness. Sometimes—as on 1992's shimmering Harvest Moon—he assumes his '60s folkie persona. Then he'll mutate into the mad, feedback-frenzied guitar guru that has made him the Godfather of Grunge to the gen-X set. That's his primary incarnation on this relatively short (less than 48 minutes) CD, a haphazard effort that has some of the raggedness of a bootleg release. Imagine strolling through the hills near Young's Northern California ranch and stumbling on the best garage band on the planet in full rehearsal, and you've got the immediate, warts-and-all approach Young has taken on Broken Arrow.

For those who prefer him as a pharaoh of flannel, there is also the usual bounty of swooping, wreckerball guitar riffs anchored by Billy Talbot's subterranean bass lines. The choice cuts are the diesel-fueled country of "Changing Highways" and the mid-'70s American Stars 'n Bars simplicity of "Big Time." The CD's final track, a low-down, dirty cover of the Jimmy Reed blues classic "Baby What You Want Me to Do," was recorded live at a club in Princeton-by-the-Sea, Calif. With Young's echoey, distant vocals barely audible above the crowd noise, you feel as if you're perched on a bar stool somewhere way in the back, hoping he will keep playing till dawn. Unfortunately, the lights go up and there's not even one encore, something this uneven effort could well have used. (Reprise)

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