Sound — 8
At one time folk/rock legend Neil Young stated, "You can call me erratic, but I've been consistent about it, consistently erratic". There's perhaps no truer of a statement for Young, who has bounced steadily between traditional rock and a more earthy folk sound throughout his career. Rather than showcasing his current songwriting efforts to follow up last year's "Le Noise", the former Buffalo Springfield guitarist has opted to dig into his archives. "A Treasure" is 12-track live album recorded back during his 1984-85 tour with the highly impressing backing band, the International Harvesters. Never has Young been so thickly entrenched in the roots of country, a deviation that if anything does convey a no-frills, honest message. At the heart of the 12 tracks is the group of amazing musicians that fill each song with a bevy of beautifully crafted solos. A good deal of the tracks carry the same traditional format, with a heavy storytelling vibe during the verses and a catchy, instantly memorable chorus. There are multiple breaks within each cut, allowing for players Ben Keith (steel and slide guitar), Rufus Thibodeaux (fiddle), and Spooner Oldham and Hargus "Pig" Robbins (both on piano) to enhance the a fairly straightforward concept tenfold. If you don't care for country, "A Treasure" will not be the record for you. But in terms of intriguing/entertaining lyrical content and all-out musicianship, there is a lot to be said about this album from over 25 years ago. Among the highlights are several unreleased songs, including the entrancing "Grey Riders". That particular track features some amazing, effects-laden guitar work that is reminiscent of some of Young's earlier rock offerings with Buffalo Springfield. "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" is infectious through and through, with classic old-school country lyrics and impeccable fiddle work. "Nothing Is Perfect" takes the tempo down a notch and is a fairly pensive tune that showcases tasteful, restrained piano lines interwoven through a good deal of it. Broaching blues territory is "SOul Of A Woman", while "It Might Have Been" feels like a slice out of the earliest groundbreaking country artists' musical catalog.
Lyrics — 9
While at times the lyrics can be repetitive or seemingly simple, there's an earthy honesty to it all. And on top of that, you get enough pithy, humorous content elsewhere to keep you entertained. The best cuts lyrically are the witty "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" ("I can't reach out and touch you; You're hung up on the line; I'm your disconnected number now; And you're a private line") and the ode to American workers "Motor City" ("My old car keeps breaking down; My new car ain't from Japan; There's already too many Toyotas in this town"). The latter song's lyrics will likely evoke some type of reaction good or bad, just as the crowd on the live version can be heard cheering wildly (although not up front in the audio mix). Neil Young doesn't try to sugarcoat anything he does, and it's that kind of in-your-face approach to his music that really does deserve respect.
Overall Impression — 8
It was an interesting choice on Young's part to dig into archives from the 1980's, but it's commendable that he allows the International Harvesters another opportunity to be in the spotlight. Although there is an earthy sweetness to the general bulk of the 12 tracks' core songwriting, it really is the soloing aspect of the record that comes to the forefront time and time again. If anything it shows yet another facet to that "consistently erratic" godfather of grunge we've come to know, and his ability to hop from genre to genre proves he deserves to be considered an icon at this stage of his career.