Ryan Palko ’14
Last week I covered the punk rock band Green Day and their outstanding album “Dookie.” This week I am shifting gears to Neil Young. These two artists are totally different and it seems odd to make a shift this drastic. Let me explain my rationale. Neil Young is one of my favorite artists and his work has had a major influence on music today. He co-founded the folk band Buffalo Springfield, was the fourth man in Crosby, Stills & Nash and also performed solo with his band Crazy Horse. Neil Young is known not just for his guitar skills and abilities as a lyricist, but also because of his voice is awful. When he sings he sounds like a dying cat. Despite the atrocious voice, his lyrics and guitar skills make up the difference. This review will examine Neil Young’s seventh studio album “Zuma.” The origin of the album’s title is debated. Some argue it is a tribute to Zuma Beach in Malibu California (Young owns a house there), while others contend that it stems from the track “Cortez the Killer.” Personally I side with the latter. The album artwork supports that it stems from the Aztecs leader Montezuma.
“Zuma’s” tracks flow seamlessly together. Despite the blending of the folk and rock genres, “Zuma” is hearty and full bodied. It cannot be classified as genuine rock or folk album. Rather this music is a hybrid between the two genres. This album is distinct not just because of its odd melodies but also due to its personal lyrics. The personal lyrics are easily understood above the background noise. Because the audience hears the lyrics, it feels like he is telling communicated directly with the audience. The vehicle to convey these lyrics are his guitar. He is a very talented guitarist whose solos are excellent. Arguably, the most notable solo in Neil Young’ career appears on this album in the track “Cortez the Killer.” This track is wonderfully crafted for a variety of reasons which will be discussed later.
Notable songs on this album are, “Cortez the Killer,” “Danger Bird,” and “Through my Sails.” This album runs for a total of 36:34 minutes, but it feels much longer. The songs are loaded with a guitar that feels saturated and water logged. I think this is due to Young’s style of play. The combination of classic folk texture, hearty and whole, blended with slowed down rock riffs, create this heavy feel. The most notable song on this album is “Cortez the Killer” which lasts a whopping seven and a half minutes. This song included one of Neil Young’s best solos. The premise of this song is about Spanish explore Hernando Cortez. This explored lead an invasion of the Aztecs and the killed their leader Montezuma. This song is filled with long guitar riffs between the lyrics. These riffs fit well with the song. The permeating image of the song is Cortez “dancing across the water.” The Aztecs saw Cortez as their savior, the god Quetzalcoatal, sailing in boats to come and rescue them. The riffs put this message to sound. This is why this song is so spectacular. It portrays the sailing, the image of Cortez as a god, and the somber nature of the slaying of Montezuma all blended together in the guitar the riffs. I highly recommend checking Neil Young’s music. Look forward to more reviews of his other albums in the near future. Overall, I give this album a 34/40.