November 05, 1990 12:00 PM

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

On this reunion with his old bandmates from Crazy Horse, Young must have been seismically inspired by the series of earthquakes he has said he felt while recording at his northern California ranch. This is Young at his garage-band best: churning out wrenching guitar riffs while still keeping a distorted melody close at hand.

A couple of the tracks clock in at more than 10 minutes, which may be stretching the let’s-just-let-the-tape-machine-roll philosophy. But he’s so fired up and spontaneous, it’s worth the extra ounce of listening effort.

While every track sounds raw and vibrant, some are particularly worthy of a mention. There’s the prairie punk delight “White Line,” and the carefully spelled “F!#in’ Up,” a kinetic ball of fury and tension. On the mega-jam “Love to Burn,” Young takes his typically hard view of romance and sets it to a flurry of nasty guitar bites that scatter like shards of glass: “Why’d you ruin my life, where you takin’ my kid?/And they hold each other, saying how did it ever come to this?” Yet in the end, he shrugs and still advises, “Take a chance on love.”

Young, 44, attempts to put the psychedelic era in some perspective on both “Mansion on the Hill” and “Days That Used to Be,” warning of the perils of clinging to the past. The record ends delicately with sort of an environmental “Star-Spangled Banner” called “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem).” recorded live at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis at Farm Aid IV.

If you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief after that parting track, don’t be surprised. Just when folks think it’s time to stow Neil away in the golden-oldie bins, the muttonchopped rocker pulls off what is close to the album of his career. (Reprise)

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