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Neil Young A Letter Home (Reprise)

Not everything Neil Young does becomes a classic, but his unpredictable nature makes him fascinating.

For this album he recorded, direct to vinyl, a handful of acoustic covers in his friend Jack White's refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth. The disc also features a couple of poignant spoken-word message to his late mother; as for the songs themselves, Young has said they "changed my life". As befits the simple recording process, you can hear pops and other little flaws throughout. The unquestioned highlights are deeply affecting readings of Changes, by Phil Ochs, and Needle Of Death, by Bert Jansch - songs Young performed at his Carnegie Hall gigs in New York in January. Both recall Young circa On The Beach, during his mid-1970s creative peak. There are also strong covers of Dylan's Girl From The North Country and Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain. Willie Nelson's Crazy gets a nice version, though the cover of Springsteen's My Home Town is so-so. But this is an intimate, intriguing addition to the Young canon.

Russell Leadbetter

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