Readers' reviews: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Riversea

Some of the best album reviews submitted by readers over the past few days

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Visit this page to see all recent readers' reviews – and below are a couple of highlights from the past few days. Think you can do better? Review some of your favourite (or least favourite) albums and if we pick yours we'll send you some CDs.

Americana by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

A covers record? Who saw this coming? As always with Young, expect the unexpected.

On paper, there is good cause for fans to rejoice at the announcement of Americana. It would appear that the famously mercurial and single-minded musician has put his hand deep into America's folk song history, and taken his noisiest backing band and incarnation with him.

The opening strains of Oh Susannah greet this first record that Young has made with the full Crazy Horse line-up since the underwhelming Broken Arrow in 1996, with a splutter and a drum rattle showcasing a band struggling to locate a tune. It's a bewildering and tuneless opening 40-odd seconds, but one that would only ever come from someone like Young.

The band soon find their feet and Young beckons in the chant from the choir. And so the record opens out readying for the next 57 mins of a trip through the heritage of American song, until the dying strains of a stupefying take on 'God Save The Queen' fade out. This is certainly not bucolic dotage like many of his peers.

Whilst an imperfect record, the virtues of Americana should not be taken lightly. Amongst the long winded passages that do not always pay off, there are flatteringly loose and effective arrangements on cliched standards. There's a rumbling take on She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain (called Jesus' Chariot here) that fizzes and bangs, a classic Crazy Horse jam on High Flyin' Bird, a pretty acoustic touch on Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land and the skiffle stomp of Gallows Pole that doesn't reflect too badly against Led Zeppelin's own take from III.

There is a feeling that this album was recorded with few takes, and even fewer rehearsals. You sense that the band is stretching out, and dusting off the cobwebs for what Young has already confirmed is coming next: an album of Neil Young originals, pencilled in for release before 2012 draws to a close.

With some editing, this could have been a more palatable listening experience as a whole. Most people would probably concur that Tom Dula outstays it's welcome by at least half of its running time. Similarly, the recording of God Save The Queen is a bum note that sounds pained and a sorry point on which to finish the album. It is the very sound of Neil Young that his detractors hear when they wish to criticise his style. It's a pity.

On balance, this album is a success in its own scruffy way. In a world where sheen and slickness holds court, it is refreshing to hear a unique voice of a dying breed. What comes next is anyone's guess. Young could even shelve the album of originals slated for release, and decide that what he really wants to do is to make a Euro-pop record. Let's hope he doesn't. It's good to hear this team kicking out some tunes and starting up the engine. Long may they all run.

– toomuchnoiseblog

Stream Americana in full on

Out of an Ancient World by Riversea

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Riversea is a collaboration between singer/songwriter Marc Atkinson and keyboard player Brendan Eyre. It's been a long time in the making, so long in fact it almost makes you wonder if the album title is a reference to how long ago since they started work on it.

Although the creative core of Riversea are a duo, it's a full band project with a cast of guest musicians that reads like a who's who of the somewhat incestuous York rock scene. It includes Alex Cromarty of The Heather Findlay Band on drums, Dave Clements on bass, and a whole host of guest guitarists, including Mostly Autumn's Bryan Josh and Liam Davison, Stolen Earth's Adam Dawson, and Mark Rowen, formerly of Breathing Space.

They have delivered a strongly song-orientated record, with a big, rich sound. Atkinson's emotive vocals strongly recall Marillion's Steve Hogarth, especially on the quieter parts. As one might expect, there's an emphasis on keyboard-led arrangements ranging from simple piano accompaniments to heavy symphonic rock sections. Eyre tends to leave much of the soloing to the guest guitarists, whose differing styles add variety. Despite the presence of plenty of virtuoso musicians, there is little or no self-indulgent showboating for it's own sake; all the solos and instrumental passages fit the song and never outstay their welcomes.

Highlights include the thought-provoking Is This What God Wants, and Falling Stars with it's great heavy neo-prog instrumental break featuring one of Eyre's few keyboard solos and an incredible guitar solo from by Adrian Jones. Others standouts are The Song, with the soaring vocal in the end section from Mostly Autumn's Olivia Sparnenn, and Freeze the Frame, a lovely laid-back Pink Floyd feel, with some great guitar from former Breathing Space man Mark Rowen. But it's hard to pick individual songs; this is really one of those albums where the quality is consistent throughout. There's no filler here, the arrangements are thoroughly honed and polished, and nothing sounds half-finished or out of place.

This is an album which turned out to be well worth the wait. Fans of latter-day Marillion should love this, but it should also appeal to anyone that loves well-crafted music with plenty of emotional depth.

– Kalyr


Adam Boult

The GuardianTramp

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