Are You Passionate?

Gone are the days when I’d be the first one on my block to buy the new album by an artist whose work I admired. Long gone are the days when I’d devote time to nothing but giving said album an uninterrupted first listen, when I’d pore over the lyric sheet and the liner notes and check out which musicians the artist had employed to help realize her or his vision this time out. (Of course, those were the pre-CD days when album packaging was still something of an art and actually worth looking at.) Case in point: this morning, for the very first time, almost four years after the fact, I finally listened to Neil Young’s 2002 album, Are You Passionate?

 

Somewhere along the line I’d gotten the impression (certainly from one of those nasty critics) that the album was a sub-par effort, another failed novelty excursion in the vein of Everybody’s Rockin’ or This Note’s For You. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered Are You Passionate?‘s thick, lovely, ever-fuzzy guitar lines, as meditative as the eleven fine songs they keep aloft. The album’s not one of Young’s masterworks (let’s call it a middlework), but it’s a good one, with the songwriter’s eye for introspection still making him his own best critic:

All I got is a broken heart
And I don’t try to hide it
when I play my guitar

And, almost five years after 9/11, “Let’s Roll,” Young’s musical interpretation of Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer‘s farewell words before rushing the terrorists on that doomed flight, still packs a punch. While it doesn’t hang together as a song (it’s more of an idea for a song an admittedly great one), it stills works in spite of itself with its ominous opening chords and haunting cell phone ringing. And, with controversy still rife regarding Reflecting Absence, the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site (the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for today), Young’s lyrics remain significant:

No one has the answer
But one thing is true
You’ve gotta turn on evil
When it’s coming after you
You gotta face it down
And when it tries to hide
You gotta go in after it
And never be denied

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