The Monsanto Years Review

artist: Neil Young date: 07/31/2015 category: compact discs
Neil Young: The Monsanto Years
Released: Jun 29, 2015
Genre: Folk Rock, Country Rock, Hard Rock, Americana
Label: Reprise
Number Of Tracks: 9
Veteran musician Neil Young delivers rock that has a purpose - criticizing agribusiness Monsanto - with his new studio album, "The Monsanto Years."
 Sound: 9
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 9
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overall: 8.7
The Monsanto Years Featured review by: UG Team, on july 31, 2015
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: How many musicians have more than three dozen albums under their belt (without including a number of records released with a certain supergroup) as a pivotal and highly influential rock talent, and still continue to deliver relevant political messages through new music? Neil Young should come first to mind, and is likely unique in that instance. Having spent more than five decades within the industry, Neil Young has never stepped away from the challenge of heading back into the recording studio, nor has he backed away from expressing his personal beliefs about anything and everything through said material. The fact that he is continuing to do so with his newly released effort "The Monsanto Years" is remarkable on it's own, let alone the fact that his level of musical execution remains in top form.

The record stands as Young's musical protest against agribusiness Monsanto, who has been heavily criticised by many people aside from the veteran vocalist for it's manufacturing and distributions of products that include genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Perhaps it's only appropriate that "The Monsanto Years" is also a collaboration with Willie Nelson's sons Lukas and Micha, as well as the members of their band Promise Of The Real. This is one concept album which could have just as easily been developed by the members of CSN&Y several decades ago had the topic of Monsanto been as prevalent in that era as it currently is today, which does introduce a degree of nostalgia to the performance.

Without delving too heavily into the actual subject matter because it is such a controversial topic, the sound of "The Monsanto Years" could have just as easily found it's way out of the 1970s. The vocal harmonies are spot on, the guitar work is more complementary than overwhelming, and the emotion that's layered in Neil's own singing creates a response that's unique unto him. Songs such as the opening track "A New Day for Love" stresses this point across fittingly, as Neil urges "It's a bad day to do nothin'" above a cohesive rhythm section highlighted by crashing percussion and concrete guitar work. "Wolf Moon" incorporates a laidback country rock feel that seldom finds it's way into new material from any artist, whereas "People Want To Hear About Love" reinforces an attitude not entirely unlike the themes of 1970's "After The Gold Rush."

"A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop" is one of the more instantly recognizable political-themed selections on the record, and especially thrives because of it's reckless spirit. The lyrics encourage Monsanto - and Starbucks - to let the farmers grow what they want to grow, right before the band breaks into a carefree whistle and a Beach Boys-esque four-chord progression. The listener could break into a laugh while just as easily take the time to research the message behind this vintage-sounding Neil Young track. // 9

Lyrics: Seldom does a rock musician deliver an album that maintains a relevant message without becoming fifty minutes of preaching, and yet somehow Neil Young has managed to toe the fine line between standing on a soapbox with a guitar and mockingly deliver straightforward rock with a message on "The Monsanto Years." After more than five decades of touring and performing (and talking, as that also takes a toll on a seasoned singer's voice), Young is still able to hit those relatively high notes with a soulful passion that's been recognized for over the course of his career on this new installment, while also allowing his age to have some role to play in the end result. // 8

Overall Impression: Neil Young has made quite the achievement with his 36th studio album "The Monsanto Years." To have such a veteran talent to embark on an extensive political concept album project with the sons of Willie Nelson sounds like a proposed concept straight out of the mind of a dedicated rock fan, and yet the end result found throughout "The Monsanto Years" manages to present memorable compositions while one hand sticks the middle finger to the man. If anyone has that skill down, it has to be Neil Young. // 9

- Lou Vickers (c) 2015

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