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Music Review: Neil Young’s ‘Before and After’ Redefines Streaming with a Continuous Stream of Unreleased Gems

by Michael Nguyen
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In a characteristic move, Neil Young redefines the concept of streaming songs with the release of his latest album, “Before and After,” set to drop this Friday.

Young presents 13 revamped deep tracks in a unique format, seamlessly blending them into a single, uninterrupted piece of predominantly acoustic music, spanning a duration of 48 minutes. Although originally recorded during Young’s solo live tour in 2019, these tracks are now presented as a cohesive musical composition devoid of any audience applause.

This innovative approach weaves together songs from various points in Young’s extensive 54-year career, forging a new narrative while placing the 78-year-old artist’s distinctive, weathered voice at the forefront of the experience.

Fans expecting Young to improvise transitions between songs, akin to the Grateful Dead’s style, will find a different musical direction. Instead, occasional guitar strums and harmonica notes maintain the musical continuity.

The album’s opening track, a dramatically reimagined version of “I’m the Ocean,” originally recorded with Pearl Jam on “Mirror Ball” in 1995, sets the tone. The album’s repertoire includes three lesser-known Buffalo Springfield songs from the 1960s as the oldest selections, with the most recent addition being “Don’t Forget Love” from 2021’s “Barn.”

In between these milestones, listeners will encounter songs that Young initially recorded with his longtime band, Crazy Horse, as well as a deep cut from one of his most renowned albums, 1970’s “After the Gold Rush.” Remarkably, “If You’ve Got Love,” arguably the most obscure track, makes its debut appearance on an album with this release.

As the album concludes with Young poignantly repeating the words “Don’t forget love” in the eponymous final track, it evokes both a plea for hope and a lamentation tinged with despair. While it may not be Young’s ultimate official recording, “Before and After” serves as a poignant potential farewell in his prolific career.

However, it’s important to note that “Before and After” does not rank among Neil Young’s essential works. Instead, it emerges as a late-career curiosity, likely to resonate most with his devoted fan base, as it illuminates hidden gems that might otherwise have remained buried in his extensive catalog.

For more music reviews, please visit: Link to AP music reviews

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