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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

*** NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE "Year of the Horse" Reprise

June 15, 1997|Steve Hochman

On the surface, this two-CD set recorded on tour last year would seem to be unnecessary, even if any document of Young live with Crazy Horse--rock 'n' roll incarnate--is welcome. There's simply no way this could match "Live Rust," which still stands some 20 years after its recording as one of the great live rock albums. And 1991's Crazy Horse-powered "Weld" and 1993's "Unplugged" (with different musicians) covered the bulk of Young's post-"Rust" era in concert.

Yet "Year of the Horse" is a strong, dynamic collection neatly capturing the reflective yet expansive tone of Young's remarkable string of '90s studio albums, with both recent songs and appropriate material from throughout his career--as far back as an acoustic "Mr. Soul."

Here are elegant elegies to lost dreams and dreamers and invocations of new hopes and visions--highlighted by soaring, electric versions of "Pocahontas" (originally an acoustic number) and the recent "Slip Away," framed by the garage-rock release of opener "When You Dance" and the closing one-two punch of "Prisoners of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Sedan Delivery." Stringing it together are Young's trademark guitar sculptures, as nakedly emotive as his words and voice. This doesn't include much of his best-known or even best material, but it's no less expressive. Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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