Neil Young: Le Noise
Warner Music 526520
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Review by Rick Kosmick - October 29, 2014
Neil Young released his debut album in 1969 and has continued issuing records every 1 to 2 years with regularity. Le Noise, released in 2010, is his 31st studio album and at the very least, he is very prolific as a songwriter. Overall, his recorded output can be considered as an exceptional body of work. Young's albums are indeed varied and, yes, he has released a few clunkers ("Trans" and "Are You Passionate" come to mind). But the Blu-ray version of Le Noise, in my opinion, is clearly a winner.
The Blu-ray audio is PCM Stereo 192k 24Bit. I found it interesting this version is marketed as firstly, a film of Neil Young recording Le Noise. It is a black and white film with mainly dim lighting creating a sombre and dense atmosphere. The main image is a solitary man, Neil Young, with his his guitar. However, it is the music in high quality audio that is the star here and the film just adds some visual support to the overall proceedings. The 8 original songs on this album consist of Mr. Young singing and accompanying himself solely on guitar as the lone instrument. And it is not a conventional use of the guitar: it is an electric guitar sound full of feedback on six songs along with two on acoustic (Love and War, Peaceful Valley Boulevard).
My initial reaction on listening to the first electric number was the primitive nature of the music and my thoughts turned fondly to guitar legend Link Wray. What you hear is the raw power and energy of the guitar. However, the feedback is neither edgy or unpleasant. It is here the producer, Daniel Lanois, takes on a significant role adding a dense atmosphere to the sound. Mr. Lanois tinkers with sound effects creating timely reverberations and moody tones. Just think of the feedback as "good" feedback. The sound is nothing short of sumptuous.
On the outstanding opening track "Walk with Me", a sense of excitement is created and I was immediately enthralled by the mesmerizing sound. Another exceptional cut worth mentioning is "Angry World" but all the songs are excellent to very good and each seems an intricate part of creating a mood on Le Noise. Most important for this mood are the sonics that have a warm analogue quality. The clarity of the guitar is exceptional and you can frequently hear vibrations from the strings. It does seem like a very intimate type of recording but at the same time you want to play it loud (at least it would be my suggestion to do so). Well the soundstage.... is so broad and rich with ambience that it is simply exquisite.
Le Noise deserves a high ranking in Neil Young's canon of releases. It may not be a great Neil Young record (it is a little short on great songs). What does make it very special is a unique guitar based album that creates a massive soundscape supported by high resolution audio. It seems so natural for me to highly recommend this Blu-ray version (and remember to play it loud).
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