Sunday, June 29, 2014

Neil Young - Re-ac-tor - 1981

Re-act-or:  the beginnings of Neil Young's awesome and much maligned 80's albums, a noisy precursor to Trans, and recorded with Crazy Horse.  What's not to like here?  Re-ac-tor is loaded with heaps of fuzzed-out electric guitar, from Frank Sampedro, ridiculous percussion from Ralph Molina, and thudding bass from Billy Talbot.

There's "a story of Surfer Joe, who caught the big one and let it go" that exemplifies Young's folky, storytelling talents.  This is only to be followed by the bold and brash, "T-Bone," where Neil sings about mashed potatoes and T-Bone steaks.  Yes, you read that right.  It's a pretty silly track, but who cares?  It's fun to listen to and very few lyrics.  Literally, "Got mashed potatoes, Ain't got no T-Bone" repeats endlessly over this nine-minute jam session with the Horse.  Yes.

Side-B is full of trains and cars.  The train-track, "Southern Pacific," sounds like it could fit easily on Neil and Crazy Horse's retro covers album, Americana, due to its rootsy pace, dark lyrics, haunting back-up vocals, massive guitar mashing, and bass line.  Some people might listen to "Motor City" and think it's strange how Young sings so crankily about his car, but seeing as cars are a giant part of his life the song makes total sense.  It's a funny and simple 50's style track with a great sing-a-long "who's driving my car now?"  From reading his autobiographical book, Waging Heavy Peace, you would know how driving huge, old cars on the open road is just about his favorite pastime (after making music and playing with toy trains).  "Rapid Transit" is prescient of his yet to come Landing on Water, not sure why.  His vocals are playful; he's scatting a bit, and doing some lip drum rolls, and yowling too.

Album closer "Shots" could make a guest appearance on Le Noise, Young's recent album that sounds like a "feedback drenched apocalypse."  "Shots" is far ahead of its time.  It's grungy.  Really gritty.  All kinds of machinery sounds are made here with nasty guitar feedback.  Stunning.  Young's singing laid on this backdrop is spot on.  Neil and the Horse are in an intensely focused jam till the end of this track when it just crumbles in chaos.  Total destruction.

Re-ac-tor has howls, kazoos, oohs, ahhs, wood block, cow bell, hand claps, whubba whubbahs,  and the occasional whooh.  As an album it's brimming with reckless abandon.  It's messy at times and frankly lacks in musical focus.  It's Neil and the Horse possibly well loaded and joyously jamming out.  Crazy Horse brings out ripping sounds and fiery intensity on each and every one of these tracks.

Seems like a lot of the music here could perfectly fit into other great Neil Young albums that he later created.  Was this album ahead of its time?  Then why is it that Re-ac-tor is not highly regarded by the general public?  These VVer's don't care about that kinda stuff and like what they like.  It has been in their collection for quite a few years and there it will remain.

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