Neil Young – Life (1987)

Freedom in sight!

Finally, in 1987 the experiment was over. Five albums on Geffen Records came to an end. The five albums were “Trans”, “Everybody’s rockin'”, “Old ways”, “Landing on water” and “Life”. En eclectic collection of styles. Only one of those albums is really good in my ears. What made the period with Geffen so strange, as some would say – bad?

The conspiracy theorists would say it was the influence of Geffen record company men trying to steer Neil in his artistic process. I, however, think it ws the other way around. The same reason that made Neil change label was also impacting his creative work and vice versa. He had some well documented personal problems, his sons Zeke and Ben have cerebral palsy. Neil was struggling, searching for ways to communciate with his family and the world. Maybe all that pressure made him change music style, and label?

Most of the songs on “Life” were recored live on the “Rusted out garage”-tour of 1986. Only two songs, “Cryin’ Eyes” and “We Never Danced”, are done in a studio.

Some of the songs are mildly enjoyable. I especially like “Inca queen”. It’s a slow lament in the same tradition as “Cortez the killer” but not as majestic as its predecessor.

But in the end, unfortunalety the collection of songs on this album is a rather bland bunch. This is a weak Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. Judging by the 1986 tour documentary “Muddy track” the band was not in balance either. Most of that film is the shoutings of the angry voices. It is tiresome to watch. The whole era is like the tar pit of Neil’s history.

Second side track “Prisoners of rock’n’roll” is a funny one though. Neil does have his sense of humour regardless of state of mind. Have a look at these lyrics…

We never listen
To the record company man
They try to change us
And ruin our band 

We don’t wanna be watered down
Taking orders
From record company clowns

Yeah, message received loud and clear, Neil. From the next studio album on Neil went back to Reprise, and with that he entered the second golden age of his career.

Rating: 4/10

Side A:

  1. Mideast vacation
  2. Long walk home
  3. Around the world
  4. Inca queen

Side B:

  1. Too lonely
  2. Prisoner’s of rock’n’roll
  3. Cryin’ eyes
  4. When your lonely heart breaks
  5. We never danced

Best songs: “Inca queen”, “Prisoner’s of rock’n’roll” and “We never danced”

Released on July 6th, 1987

Media: LP, 1987, Germany

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