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Neil Young, "Fork in the Road" (Reprise) [1.5 STARS]

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Neil Young's ability to get all fired up about current events and quickly churn out a musical statement in protest or homage has always been one of his charms, but it's resulted in as much great art ("Ohio," "Rockin' in the Free World") as awful dreck ("This Note's for You," "Let's Roll") during his prolific, long-may-he-run career. And by no means is this new concept disc about the urgent need for eco-friendly cars among his better moments.

"The awesome power of electricity/Stored for you in a giant battery," Young sings in "Fuel Line," and that's just the first of 100 cringe-worthy lyrics among these 10 tunes. ("You can drive my car, feel how it rolls/Feel a new energy as it quietly rolls," he croons in "Just Singing a Song"; "Where did all the money go/Where did all the cash flow?" he asks in "Cough Up the Bucks," etc., etc., though you do have to admire the line "There's a bailout coming but it's not for me/It's for all those creeps watching tickers on TV" in the title track.) But the lyrics aren't even the biggest problem here.

Recorded last year in between tour dates with his last live band (including pedal steel player Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and his wife Pegi Young on backing vocals), the 63-year-old artist, technology geek and avid car buff resorts to chop-shop mixing and matching of overly familiar elements of the classic Neil Young sound--a little Crazy Horse grunge and stomp here, a bit of "Harvest" folkie harmony there--to leave us with the impression that we've heard all of this before, but done much, much better.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on April 7, 2009 1:33 PM.

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