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New Movies

New From Neil Young: Harvest Moon

By Joshua W. Shenk

In his 1987 release, This Note's For You, Neil Young took a lyrical stab at Eric Clapton, who sold his song to Michelob Beer for a high-profile commercial. At the end of his video for the title track, Young thrust a beer can before the camera, spinning it around to reveal the words: "Sponsored by nobody."

Young's new album, Harvest Moon, is a new exercise in this sort of self-consciousness. There is no sarcastic bite to the music here, but, implicitly, he underscores what his alternative to prostituting old material: allow it lie fallow.

In this new release, Young reaps the benefits of his metamorphisis through musical styles. Starting with elemental Buffalo Springfield folk and country ballads like in Harvest, he moved to experiments with rougher edges, like on the garage-band style Ragged Glory. In Harvest Moon, Young returns to his folk-country roots, telling simple stories with unadorned acoustic guitar.

Young's sweet voice, backed by stellar vocalists James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, makes for a fine sound. Love stories are ample here, but they are subtle and, in some cases, sublimely subversive. In "Unknown Legend," for example, Young sings of a a distant passion: "Somewhere in a desert highway/She rides a Harley-Davidson." In print, it's not the most romantic image in the world, but the music--and Ronstadt's voice--brings the image to life.

Despite the aesthetics, Neil Young isn't showing any new faces in his album. He makes music, not commercials, and he doesn't plan on doing much different.

"From Hank to Hendrix," he sings, "I walked these streets with you/Here I am with this old guitar/Doin' what I do."

And doing it like no one else can.

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