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At an age when some rockers are burning out, Neil Young (77) couldn’t be more fired up, about music, the planet and the power of love. Those passions converge on his new album, his 12th in 10 years, World Record, released Nov. 18. It’s backed by Crazy Horse (his sometime band since 1968) and produced by Rick Rubin (who’s famous for crafting landmark albums with everyone from Run-DMC to Johnny Cash). The album examines Earth’s precarious state with pathos, hope, sadness and frustration. Young serves up 10 new tunes, including the joyous, melodic “Overhead,” the heartrending “This Old Planet (Changing Days)” and the scrappy rocker “The World (Is In Trouble Now).”
You can get World Record on digital, CD, cassette and a three-sided double album on vinyl with an etching on side 4. A limited-edition clear vinyl version is available at indie music stores and the Neil Young Archives (where buyers get a free hi-res digital audio download).
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On a bus with his wife, Daryl Hannah, the Godfather of Grunge spoke via Zoom to AARP about World Record and the 50th-anniversary reissue of his classic Harvest.
How do you explain your enduring chemistry and compatibility with Crazy Horse?
It’s friendship. It’s really a natural thing. After 50 years of making records together, we still have that groove, whatever that is.
You said that World Record entailed “not much thinking but a lot of feeling,” but it contains some of the loveliest melodies you’ve written. How did this album evolve?
The record was a gift. It came from nowhere. Daryl and I were in Colorado, and I was going for a walk. I was whistling some kind of march song. Then I realized, This is a new melody. The next day I started whistling another melody. I recorded it into my phone. That happened over and over for days and days. Later I thought, I wouldn’t mind making a record with Crazy Horse, and I remembered the flip phone and those recordings. I wrote all the words to the whole record in two days. I never stopped writing and never corrected a word.
It’s sonically fascinating: full of incidental sounds and unexpected instruments — and it’s uncharacteristically not guitar driven.
I only did three songs on guitar. I played chords on a couple of songs as a cloudburst effect. On others, I played pump organ or piano, instruments I don’t ordinarily play. When Nils [Lofgren of Crazy Horse] played guitar, we used the incidental sounds between his playing. Sometimes it sounds like you hear people singing or talking, but it’s not there. We went with it.
The song “Love Earth” is a plea to take care of the planet. So many people believe it’s too late.
I don’t. It’s never too late to love. If you love something, you take care of it. If everyone realized that’s what we need to do, it would be so unifying.