John P. from PURCHASE, NY Reviewed on 3/25/2007...
This album is just one CD - not sure why they seem to think it's more than one.
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A Haunting Masterpiece
Bill R. Moore | Oklahoma, USA | 04/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a definite candidate for Neil Young's best album ever; it is, quite simply, a beautiful, haunting melancholy masterpiece. It came as quite a surprise to everyone after the raging, upbeat Ragged Glory, did this gloomy series of death odes. Inspired no doubt in part by the suicide of Kurt Cobain - which occurred during the recording of this album; at least two songs (the title track and Change Your Mind) seem to be about the fallen rocker, who quoted one of Neil's songs in his suicide note - this album is a series dark, moving, extremely powerful vignettes that rank it among the most moving and amazing albums I have ever heard. This is surely the most diverse record from Neil to feature Crazy Horse: it's not the endless heavy jamming that you may well expect. The album is fairly musically diverse: the bookend tracks on the album feature beautiful, moving tack piano playing from Neil, and Prime of Life even features him performing on the flute. Tough-as-nails guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro even turns in delicate performances on the piano on more than a handful of tracks. The set features one of Neil's most moving and harrowing set of lyrics ever - on par with Tonight's The Night, but perhaps even gloomier. Most all of the songs are overtly concerned with death (the light filler track Piece of [Junk] (undoubtedly included to lighten the mood after nearly an hour's worth of heavy listening) nonwithstanding), and Neil turns in some of his most beautiful, delicate vocals ever here. The vocal melodies from the band are quite great as well. Most all of the songs have haunting, beautiful arrangements and fine melodies. However, although the lyrics, vocals, and vocal melodies on this album are almost universally outstanding, the music matches the mood precisely, and is often great as well. Smack dab in the middle of the album is the 14-minute masterpiece Change Your Mind, featuring some of Neil and Crazy Horse's best soloing ever. This song is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Blue Eden is a harowing blues jam. Many songs feature soft, touching piano passages, and many other feature excellent soloing on the guitar in an emotional, moving way. Some of Neil's best songs ever are here as well. Aside from the ones already mentioned, there are others: the slow, spooky build-up of Trans Am, the wonderful ballad Train of Love, and the absolutely stunning closer, A Dream That Can Last. In a very dark, harrowing, and moving way, this is perhaps Neil's most beautiful album ever; it features a wonderfully moving melancholy beauty - on par, beauty-wise, with such wonderful acoustic work as Harvest. Quite simply, this is an essential purchase for any who calls themselves a Neil Young fan - or, indeed, of great music at all."
Brilliant, But Not For Everyone
Gianmarco Manzione | Tampa, FL USA | 01/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Throughout his career, Neil Young has shown little concern for keeping any kind of consistency from one album to the next. He is notorious for not giving his fans exactly what they want, but he always gives them something good. This rough edge to Young's career has left many critics baffled over the years. That is perhaps the inevitable circumstance for any artist who could follow up a viscious grunge album like 1990's "Ragged Glory" with the collection of subtle folk songs found on 1992's "Harvest Moon." On "Sleeps With Angels," Young and his legendary grunge compatriots, Crazy Horse, deliver a collection of songs that brilliantly blend the mellow harmony of "Harvest Moon" with grunge. Pearl Jam's fans and critics have proven that they only see black or white. They want rock out grunge or nothing. Similarly, when Neil teams up with Crazy Horse, fans and critics expect it to follow the model of their past outings like "Ragged Glory" or 1975's "Zuma." Critics have almost routinely panned Pearl Jam's more recent output for not following the precedent they set with "Ten," and it seems that Crazy Horse suffered the same fate with "Sleeps With Angels."It is therefore no surprise that fans and critics either love or hate this album. "Sleeps With Angels" ranges from gorgeous piano ballads like "My heart" to raucous grunge knockouts like "Piece Of Crap." And on the tracks in between, both styles are combined into some of the most palatable "grunge" ever put to tape. "Prime Of Life" showcases Young in a harmonious struggle with the flute, while the band rocks to an even keel that is not commonly found on many other Crazy Horse Albums. Simply put, it is one of the Band's most solid songs since "My My, Hey Hey (into the black)" from 1979's masterpiece, "Rust Never Sleeps," though it is much quieter by comparison. "Driveby," "Western hero," and "Train Of Love" all lean towards the accoustic melodies of "Harvest Moon," but when least espected, either Young or Sampedro kick in with some elecric rhythm that always seems to belong. "Blue Eden" and, perhaps one of the album's most outstanding tracks, "Safeway Cart," are metallic wastelands of bleak, mellow emotion. "Piece of Crap" lays the smack down much in the vein of anything on "Mirror Ball" or "Ragged Glory," both of which are stunning examples of Young's genious for delivering masterful hard core grunge performaces, if that is what you are looking for.Admittedly, the one noteable flaw of this album is the singing. The vocals are shaky and unambitious on almost every track. But like Bob Dylan, singing has never been one of Neil Young's more praiseworthy attributes. However, "Sleeps With Angels" has a spontaneous, raw sound to it; a sound in which perfect, silvery vocals may have actually seemd out of place.No, this is not Neil Young rocking the studio to the ground with Crazy Horse. This is Neil and Crazy Horse looking for a newer sound; a sound that finds a wonderful balance between melody and rage. Frankly, by 1994, it would not have made sense for one of contemporary music's pioneers to deliver a grunge album that could not be told apart from anything by Nirvana, Pearl jam or Stone Temple Piolots. Neil Young is not called "the Godfather of Grunge" for making grunge albums, but rather for single handedly creating the genre long before the 90's came about. That is why Neil Young is credited as an innovator. Like any innovator, he takes risks, he reaches higher discoveries and, once in a while, creates a new breed of sound that is truly one of a kind. And we all know how fairly the world has treated those who dabbled in things that were before their time. Be different, take the chance that Neil took with "Sleeps With Angels." For those whose ears are mature enough, this CD will be a veteran of their home stereoes."
Not a masterpiece, but very interesting nonetheless
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I hated to album when I first heard it, but I really didn't give it close attention. I expected something to reach out and grab me the way "Freedom" or "Ragged Glory" did, and my initial assessment was a sloppy, tired, boring failure. But over the years a lot of people have prodded me, telling me it's much better than that, and having given it a real chance, I have to admit I was wrong. It's one of Neil's most interesting albums, sonically and lyrically. The harrowing atmosphere has been compared to that surrounding "Tonight's The Night," but the sound is very different. Here, it's almost apocalyptic, with a heavy and occasionally experimental production that you won't find on Neil's more well-known albums."My Heart" is pretty strange and off-kilter song. On paper, the words could have come out of a Broadway show, but when you hear this song sung in a quivering, straining vocal, occasionally double-tracked in a way that feels slightly off, and played on that tack piano out of "Touch of Evil," it really gets under your skin after awhile. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the CD where just about everything has something disturbing about it. On the title track, the immediate impact and tremendous loss of Cobain's death on his wife is surrounded in the most oppressive sound to ever grace a Neil Young record. He may have achieved greater levels of distortion elsewhere, but the dirge-like lyrics with the desperate, off-key chorus occasionally surfacing throughout the song makes this even more harrowing, the aural equivalent of a Franz Kafka novel.
I could go on an on (the ominous throb of the strange road epic "Trans Am", etc.) if I had the space.But it's not all doom and gloom. The pleading words and vocal on "Change Your Mind," the hope that comes through on the last track (though it's pretty desperate in itself) all offer or at least search for ways out of the depressing atmosphere that surrounds most of this CD. Not a 'fun' listen, and except for "Piece of Crap," not even rocking in a way "Tonight's The Night" or "On The Beach" rocks, but it is rewarding in its own way.One more word on "Piece of Crap," yeah, it does break from the album's thematic unity, and I think one critic was pretty apt in calling it "the ecological 'Welfare Mothers,'" but taken by out of context, it's actually a pretty funny, stoooopid rock song. Not on the level of the Ramones or the Replacements, but you get the idea."
Not gonna take you down home.
Ruth Shertzman | EVERYWHERE | 05/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had heard legends of how Neil's music is bipolar. Before I got this CD I owned After The Gold Rush, Harvest, and Silver & Gold. So I had only heard his soft music, which is utterly beautiful. At some point you are ready for something else though. When you get to that point, buy this CD. This music touched something primal in me. Now, please excuse me, I must go crawl on all fours for a while."