Neil Young – Hawks & Doves (1980)

Bumper stickers should be issued!

And so, it begins… The new decade gave us a new Neil. If the seventies were his golden era, the eighties brought us experimentation and some crazy twists and turns. He has said in interviews that he was searching for new ways to communicate. It got so strange that he actually got sued by his record company for uncharacteristic music. The background may have been that both Neil’s sons, Zeke and Ben, have cerebral palsy. Neil tried to find ways to communicate with his children and the challenges from his personal life crept into his art. Art is life, life is art. The very last album of the new decade would become his great “come-back” album, some nine years later, but before that we got some twists and turns.

I have always seen “Hawks & doves” as a hidden gem, a little bit like “On the beach” from the early seventies. But this album actually takes a cue from “Rust never sleeps” and presents us with one side of the LP with mostly acoustic songs and the other with electric boogie. Instead of crazy horse-rock we get a strange and rough kind of country rock. Neil seems to be in great mood, and many songs on the second side are straight up funny. I can’t find a better word to describe them. The lyrics are both crazy and funny in a tongue in cheek kind of way.

The first side however has a more sombre feeling to it. The four songs collected from different sessions the previous years are all great. “The old homestead” reminds me of “The last trip to Tulsa” from his solo debut album of 1969. “Lost in space” is super-sensitive, Neil at his most fragile. He’s out of control. And what’s about that little choir of children’s voices?

The fourth song is however the best song of the side, “Captain Kennedy” is very, very strong. With haunting lyrics and an engaging melody it is a favourite.

The second side of the LP is like another world, another era. Neil the activist, the madness starting to creep into his mind. Bumper stickers should be issued! If this is country, I could live in it. Rufus Thibodeaux on the fiddle, old reliable Ben Keith on steel guitar and Ann Hillary O’Brien on backing vocals with bass, drums and Neil and his usual instruments. It all makes a strange kind of feeling. The songs are painting pictures in my head.

In “Coastline” I am flung back to the fifties, the big American car cruising on Highway 1. “Union man” is as taken from a meeting with angry workers. Neil plays the MOC, Bumper stickers should be issued! A great and funny little gem. “Comin’ apart at every nail” is like part two of the same song. Maybe it is Neil’s political awakening we are hearing. Anyway, the last song is a great song, regardless of genre. It’s a great celebration of America.

Got rock and roll, got country music playing.  If you hate us, you just don’t know what you’re saying.

Bumper stickers should be issued, live music is better!


My rating: 7/10

Side A:

  1. Little wing
  2. The old homestead
  3. Lost in space
  4. Captain Kennedy

Side B:

  1. Stayin’ power
  2. Coastline
  3. Union man
  4. Comin’ apart at every nail
  5. Hawks & Doves

Best songs: “Captain Kennedy”, “Hawks & Doves”, “The old homestead” and “Union man”.

Released on November 3rd, 1980

Media: Reissued and remastered, 2018, Neil Young Archives Official Release Series – NYA ORS 13

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