Who could’ve guessed that legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young would grace us with not one, but two, full-length album releases in 2017? Well, that is exactly what he did with The Visitor, his second collaboration album featuring California rockers, Promise of The Real.
The album is a follow-up to their 2015 anti-agribusiness fueled concept album, The Monsanto Years, which really seems rather tame after listening to this politically themed letter to the POTUS.
Neil Young may be lauded as a Canadian citizen, but he damn sure loves this country a whole hell of a lot. So much so, in fact, that even though he is considered a “visitor” in the United States and was ineligible to vote in the 2017 election, he vehemently denied attempts by Donald Trump to use his song “Rockin’ in the Free World” without his authorization, stating that he was a staunch supporter of Bernie Sanders.
Going into the album, it doesn’t really seem as politically witty as one would think, with pretty simplistic song titles that don’t exactly convey the message as well as getting up on stage and yelling out, “Fuck you, Donald Trump,” which makes total sense considering the 72-year-old songwriter knows it would be more effective to convey it subtly through song. He also reminds us that you’re never too old to take a stand for what is right.
The Visitor opens with “Already Great,” a response to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” which brings listeners to “Fly By Night Deal,” a poetic track that speaks about the seriousness of power and how it should be treated, and “Almost Always” a song all about “the changing world” and a “lost planet,” there are subtle nuances that maybe Young is not really singing about a “crazy little bird, calling out its song”… he’s making fun of how much Trump uses Twitter.
“Hear that crazy little bird, calling out its song? Standing out on a limb almost too long.”
“Stand Tall” might be the one song on the album you could conceivably consider to be too serious for its own good, but it still has a pretty clear message and some really sweet guitar solos thrown into the mix. Even though it’s kind of pessimistic at times too, especially when Young sings “long may our planet live,” as if it is something that we as people don’t want that for ourselves?
Young wastes no time with “Change of Heart” which delves into Trump’s constant talk about wanting to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants from crossing the border, and about how change is a necessary part of living.
“Hate is not worth using, even as cement to build your walls that you hide behind. And not see over and it blows your mind.”
The lead single, “Children of Destiny” is a triumphant rock anthem all about standing up for what you believe in. It’s about peaceful protest. It’s about good vs. evil. David vs. Goliath. J.Q. Public Vs. City Hall. This is a song about resistance and it’s a good dose of what this country needs to hear right now.
“This is a heartfelt message to people all around the world, our home,” Young said in a comment online. “We hope this song resonates with you and gives you strength to know that you are not alone. Resist those who lash out against our positive message with name calling and negativity. We are concerned for our Democracy, Environment, and Freedom. Nothing will ever stop us from standing up.”
Promise of the Real, fronted by Lukas Nelson [son of singer-songwriter Willie Nelson], really show their versatility as a blues-rock outfit, shifting from a traditional Chicago style sound on the track, “Diggin a hole,” to an entirely different, New Orleans kind of style of rhythm and blues on “When Bad Got Good.”
The album closes with the song “Forever,” a kind of bleak reflection on what the future holds if humanity continues to mistreat the earth. It is also from this bittersweet message, “the earth is like a church without a preacher,” that we see how Young is basically saying that people need to start taking responsibility for their pollution or else the earth will recycle and start anew, exterminating all the “wolves,” “crows,” “sea creatures,” and existence as we know it. Pretty dark shit to walk out on.
Besides the subtle satire and political undertones in the lyrics, The Visitor reminds us that Neil Young is still as sharp as ever and that Promise of the Real continue to show great potential, having evolved such a great deal since they first jammed on stage together at Farm Aid in 2014.
RATING: 4 / 5
LISTEN: NEIL YOUNG + PROMISE OF THE REAL – ‘THE VISITOR’