Neil "Pono" Young goes from the plumbing extreme depths of lo-fi folk traditions with 'A Letter Home' to the sleek, obsessively well-produced and tailored 'Storytone', in which he plays with a 92-piece orchestra. Young's work in the past has always landed somewhere between sparse and raw, but this record is symphonic, putting Young's voice in a crowd of a hundred other musicians who make it sound like he's marching through the streets.
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7/10 Penrith Steve Customer review, 4th November 2014
I was pretty skeptical about this album, as I tend to be with all new Neil Young albums these days. So with such an ambitious and different project for him, I was probably more skeptical than usual. I am a huge fan of the man, it needs to be said and so I do tend to buy the good and the bad. This, I am pleased to say is pretty good on first listen. And, as it turns out it’s not that different. The album is part big band, part orchestral. So far, the big band stuff sounds weird; however, the orchestral stuff is mostly beautiful. On the first track “Plastic Flowers” his voice is great and with the orchestral backing it at times sounds like something from Joanna Newsom’s “Ys” album. “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” is pretty self explanatory. “Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth? Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough? Who’s gonna take on the big machine?” he sings, a kind of “Rockin’ in the Free World” for 2014. Taking into account that this is an at least partly an environmental protest album, big band rock ‘n’ roll song “I Want To Drive My Car” confuses me. Perhaps his wish is to find a sustainable solution? “When I Watch You Sleeping” sounds like “Harvest Moon” era Young. It seems good at this stage. It’s not “After The Gold Rush” or “On The Beach” but it might be “Harvest moon”. I know it will grow on me. The deluxe edition is the version to get as you get studio versions of all the songs too, mainly just Neil Young and a piano. I think that will end up being the one I play the most.
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