NEIL Young Greendale (Warner) Rating: NNN ; On The Beach (Warner) Rating: NNNN ; American Stars 'N Bars (Warner) Rating: NNN ; Hawks & Doves (Warner) Rating: NN ; Re-Ac-Tor (Warner) Rating: NN
Backed by Crazy Horse, Neil Young turns his concerns about the Bush government - namely deregulation of the mass media, preservation of natural resources and encroachment of privacy rights - into a convoluted rock opera centred around the fictional characters from the make-believe town of Greendale. His theatrical concert presentation of the song-cycle came off like the cast of Waiting For Guffman recreating their favourite Waltons episodes, but the album does have moments of clarity, however fleeting. The long overdue digitally remastered version of 74's On The Beach, released simultaneously with three other period pieces, now seems like a consolation prize. Young's stoner meditation on the energy crisis, Richard Nixon, his ex, Carrie Snodgrass and pal Charles Manson is inextricably tied to 74, yet doesn't sound nearly as dated as his guitar-heavy new wave rejoinder Re-ac-tor from 77. His wildly uneven country detour American Stars 'N Bars is worthwhile for Like A Hurricane and the laid-bare one-off Will To Love, while Hawks & Doves, his embarrassingly naive salute to Ronald Reagan, would've been best left buried.