Neil Young, Chrome Dreams II

The real Chrome Dreams is a legend in Neil Young mythology. He'd intended it as an album of original works, but scrapped the project in the late '70s, choosing instead to sprinkle those songs onto various records. The recently released Chrome Dreams II, named in reference to the initial project, is easily the best disc Young has released in more than a decade. It kicks off with studio versions of songs that date back 20-some years. "Bluebird" is a country-folk ode to his wife, Pegi, while "Boxcar" is a banjo-and-electric-guitar song akin to "Southern Pacific" from Young's 1980s album Re-ac-tor. "Ordinary People" is stretched out to 18 minutes here, with loopy visions of drug lords, hot rods, and homeless factory workers.

On new tracks like "Shining Light" and "Ever After," Young crosses into country waltz, '50s pop, and gospel territory. But there are more epic rockers on the record, with "Spirit Road," a boot-stomping hurricane of electric fury, the finest among them. And Young rips into "No Hidden Path," a two-note riff-fest that finds him mangling, caressing, and strangling his guitar for 13 minutes.

In the past, Young has said that he can't be caught up in his own history, a logic that has kept him from becoming a nostalgia act. Yet dipping into his archives has been a creative windfall. Given this track record, Chrome Dreams II might just mark the beginning of another peak period for one of the music industry's greatest artists.

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