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NY Times Book Review: WHP

October 26, 2012, After the Gold Rush
By HOWARD HAMPTON

WAGING HEAVY PEACE
A Hippie Dream
By Neil Young
Illustrated. 502 pp. Blue Rider Press. $30.

Neil Young is the kind of cantankerous, multitasking rocker Preston Sturges would have dreamed up, if Sturges had lived to see hippies descend on the Sunset Strip. There’s Young the sloppy musical perfectionist, the ebullient fatalist, the inscrutable dreamer, the misanthropic man of the people. There’s the earnest entrepreneur trying to launch a high-fidelity digital alternative to tinny-­sounding MP3s, the occasional movie director with roughly the aesthetic disposition of Bigfoot, the hobbyist so smitten with model trains he bought a piece of the Lionel company, a collector so crazy for cars he’s sunk a fortune into developing an eco-friendly hybrid version of a 1959 Lincoln Continental. He’s a devoted, profoundly protective family man and benefit-giving solid citizen who somehow smoked enough dope, snorted enough coke and drank enough spirits to keep pace with his generation’s most renowned substance abusers.

Sued by his own record company for making “uncharacteristic” music, he has burned through genres like a prairie fire: psychedelia, Americana, grunge, alt-country, freak folk, supermarket MOR, he was there and back before they were even ­categories.

One minute Young’s the unsurpassed master of guitar feedback, the next he’s cooing sappy ditties under bucolic studio moonlight. Restless and overproductive, he has vaults full of unreleased music; he’s toured widely and often (the now-­defunct custom bus he called Pocahontas was straight out of “Sullivan’s Travels”), briefly passing through greener commercial pastures on his way to the deepest ditch or most imposing cliff he can find (goodbye “Harvest”and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, hello “Tonight’s the Night”and “Ragged Glory”).

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