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Old Weird Americana: Neil Young’s Strangest Albums

Neil Young is many things: godfather of grunge; massively influential singer-songwriter; inimitable electric guitarist; world-class oddball. For every After the Gold Rush or Ragged Glory there’s an album that makes even his most ardent admirers scratch their heads. A concept work about fuel-efficient cars? Check. Meandering improvised soundtracks? Coupla those. Kraftwerk-inspired new wave? Oh, definitely. On June 5, when Young’s new Americana comes out, you can add lumbering distorto versions of traditional folk songs to the list, too. It’s just the latest unpredictable left turn in a career full of them. So saddle up and steel yourself for the untamed wilderness of Neil Young’s strangest albums.

Why it’s strange: Young’s music has always been rooted in traditional folk. So in true Youngian fashion he paid off-beat tribute by recording gonzo electric rock versions of songs like “Oh Susannah” and “This Is Land Is Your Land,” sometimes sprinkling in his own politically aggrieved lyrics. Abetted by his long-time on-again off-again backing band Crazy Horse and a chorus of angelic singers, the album plays like sing-a-along time at the world’s kookiest lefty summer camp.

For more on some of his albums and why they’re strange, goto SPIN.com.

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Back in the old folky days
The air was magic when we played.

by -- Neil Young

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