If Eric Clapton is God, then Neil Young is the high priest of rock and roll. He has been clearing his vaults and the latest release is Bluenote Café. It gathers performances from ten different locations from his 1987-1988 tour. The era does not contain his well-known or most commercially successful material but despite the somewhat obscurity of a number of songs; there are plenty of positives to the release.
Neil Young has always been one of rock’s better guitar technicians and his expertise is on display as it weaves through and above the brass section. A 20 minute version of “Tonight’s The Night” and an extended 12 minute “Ordinary People” are worth the price of admission due to his searing guitar excursions.
In many ways it is an eclectic group of songs. “Bad News Comes To Town” is a slow ballad that percolates along. “Doghouse” strikes a funky note that was present during this period of his career. He reaches into his past for a modernized updating of “On The Way Home.”
There are some misses as “Ten Men Workin,’” “Welcome To The Big Room,” and “Married Man” are average songs that tend to disappear into the bland part of his legacy. The sound is fine and the backing band tight. The pick and choose approach from 10 different performances makes it an album of individual tracks, rather than a cohesive whole.
The mid to late 1980’s were a transitional point in his career as After The Gold Rush and Rust Never Sleeps were in his rear view mirror and Ragged Glory and Harvest Moon were in his immediate future. Many of these songs tend to get lost but there are some nuggets to be mined here. When Neil Young is at his rock and roll best, there are few better and some of the performances fall in to that category.