Neil Young: Storytone

The great contrarian turns in a spare, intimate solo album – and an orchestral version of the same

Neil Young Credit: Matt Kent/WireImage

Neil Young's only style is doing what he wants, with zero fucks given about anyone's co-sign. And sure, these mirrored LPs – 10 songs given lavish orchestral arrangements and also offered as solo performances on a bonus disc – might be stronger as one cherry-picked set of unrepeated songs. But it wouldn't be half as interesting.

This is Young in full late bloom. There are protest statements, automobile reveries and, most impressively, love songs, likely born from his new relationship with activist and actress Daryl Hannah. The orchestra can serve their intimacy: See the lush "I'm Glad I Found You," which is a bit wan in its solo incarnation. The Cadillac big-band version of "I Want to Drive My Car" – one of three brassy tracks recalling Young's 1988 This Note's for You – is big-pimpin' fun with a rust-bucket bluesman reading. But the strings on the environmentally minded "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" feel like fur at a PETA rally, and wind arrangements schmaltz up the cozy romance of "Tumbleweed" – a poignant serenade when it's sung with just ukulele. At core throughout both LPs are Young's vulnerable, still-stunning high-tenor voice and his minimalist commitment to gut emotion. He needs little else.