Road Rock Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives

Giving Neil Young a subtle rhythm section is like giving a gorilla a Palm Pilot. On his 273rd live album, naturally titled Road Rock, V. 1, his all-star band includes bassist Duck Dunn and drummer Jim Keltner, and so what does he do? He forces them to keep up with his own patented electric thud-stomp, and the result is one of his sloppiest live albums ever. But since Neil Young is Neil Young, throwaways like this are a Zen spiritual exercise, a way of keeping his aging hippie bones loose and limber. These live tracks date from last summer's American tour, with only one new song, the awful "Fool for Your Love." But on the old stuff, Young kicks the dump in the rump. The eighteen-minute "Cowgirl in the Sand" is a riot: The band gets pitifully lost trying to follow Young until he just abandons it around the thirteen-minute mark to take off on two minutes of brain-shredding shriek guitar. The other must-hear guitar solo comes three minutes into "All Along the Watchtower," a duet with Chrissie Hynde. There's also "Peace of Mind," the old man's truest love song ever, with his wife on backing vocals. Road Rock is a goof, all right, but as Neil Young keeps proving, goofing around helps an old rock & roller stay young at heart.