Chrome Dreams

Chrome Dreams

To hear his producer David Briggs describe it, recording with Neil Young in the mid-’70s was less like a studio session than a seance. He’d come in without a plan, stare at Briggs for 20 minutes or so, and start playing: “Pocahontas,” “Powderfinger,” “Captain Kennedy”—cold peaks in the vast range of his catalog. Like the music later released on Hitchhiker, a lot of the long-shelved 1977 album Chrome Dreams was made at Indigo Ranch in Malibu, where, according to owner-engineer Richard Kaplan, Young had a standing date on full moons. Listen in to “Will to Love,” which he started at home, and you can hear the fireplace crackling. Fans will be familiar with a lot of this stuff already, albeit in slightly different forms: A slower, hazier “Sedan Delivery” (originally from the Zuma sessions and punked up on Rust Never Sleeps), a version of “Hold Back the Tears” stripped of its Nashville zazz. Having liberated himself from Crosby, Stills & Nash (telegram to Stephen Stills after disappearing from tour: “Dear Stephen, Funny how things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil”) and turned out two definitive albums with Crazy Horse (Zuma and Tonight’s the Night), he returned to the solitude implicit in his music whether accompanied or not. His dreams are American (a roundtable about the Astrodome with Marlon Brando and Pocahontas) and his passion so quietly intense you’ll consider a restraining order (“Look out for my love/It’s in your neighborhood”—that ain’t a threat, it’s a promise). As history, Chrome Dreams serves as connective tissue between the haze of his early to mid-’70s and the rootsy return of Comes a Time and Hawks & Doves, not to mention affirming Young’s status as progenitor of spare, shivery indie-folk artists like Elliott Smith and early Bon Iver. And while releasing an album nearly 50 years after deciding to not release it might seem overly thorough, Young’s late-career vault-clearing feels like a part of the same unvarnished honesty that makes his music so penetrating. He didn’t promise it’d all be great, he once said—only that it’d be what it was.

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