June 13, 1988 12:00 PM

Neil Young & the Bluenotes

This is Young’s second solid effort in a row, a feat that has been rare in the last 10 years or so of his 20-year solo career. The protean rocker dons a rock-swing persona here, with the help of a fiery horn section made up of five East L.A. players and an old Young crony, Ben Keith, on alto sax. Young and co-producer Niko Bolas resurrect the old Stax sound with those bold, punchy riffs that can turn the simplest 4/4 song into an ebullient show-stopper. They don’t always get such spectacular results, but on songs like Sunny Inside, with its Wilson Pickett influence, and Ten Men Workin’, the Bluenotes extend themselves and prove they’re not just a cute sideshow for the man with the mutton chops. With the beer commercial reference in the title track, Neil thumbs his nose at the recent trend toward superstars endorsing products, but the LP’s most effective moments are on the slower, slinkier numbers like Twilight, with its eerie, stalking melody line. Can’t Believe Your Lyin’ leads the listener along with a walking bass and some nice echoing reverb from Neil’s midnight-black Les Paul guitar. It also contains this typical bit of Young verse: “Well, I lost my job/ Thinkin’ about you/ Now there’s another man/ Workin’ in my place.” The 42-year-old ex-folkie has adopted the line “It’s better to burn out/ Than it is to rust” from his own Rust Never Sleeps as a working credo, and while he can be accused of wasting some of that energy from time to time, it’s nice to hear he’s got some engines yet to be fired up. (Reprise)

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