Are You Passionate?

Neil Young

Reprise Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Typically, the release of a new Neil Young album gets a warm response from hard-core fans and an indifferent shrug from the majority of listeners.

However, in the case of Are You Passionate? it's likely that some people coughed up the cash just to hear "Let's Roll." The song is Young's tribute to the passengers of Flight 93 who helped bring down the jet, which was under terrorist control on Sept. 11, 2001. It was one of the first songs by a major artist to directly address the events of September 11. Unfortunately, the song begins with the ring of a cell phone. It's supposed to be chilling, but comes off as hokey. The rest of the song begins to get bogged down by a riff that sounds like it was lifted from David Bowie's song "Fame."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Other songs smack of familiarity. "Mr. Disappointment" sounds like discarded Tom Waits. And the guitar riff on "You're My Girl" is straight out of a typical Lynyrd Skynyrd song -- which is strange because that band's hick anthem, "Sweet Home Alabama," was basically a swipe at Mr. Young.

Often, Are You Passionate? sounds like you're sitting in on a solid night at a local blues bar. Percussionist Steve Potts lays down a basic drum beat for almost every cut and the guitar work by Young and Frank Sampedro has a dirty, grimy, bluesy feel. Unfortunately, most of the tracks on Are You Passionate? just sound like pedestrian blues: The artistry is present but the sound is too complacent. Young's blues fix now undoubtedly is fueled by producer Booker T. Jones. The legendary guitarist of Booker T. and the MGs also plays organ as well as supplying some vocals on "Are You Passionate?"

The album is by no means a career-suicide album. Young did not opt to infuse electronica a la Trans, nor did he pull in as many guests as he could find to make the album more marketable a la Santana. For that, he should be applauded.

From his solo projects, beginning in the 1970s until today, Neil Young has dropped some clunkers for each decade he has continued to play. The kicker is that for every weak album he releases, there is always a possibility that there's a great album like Harvest Moon or Ragged Glory right around the corner. That hope of another potential Young classic should be enough to keep listeners engaged, even through his artistic missteps. But in the case of this 2002 album, there's very little for a listener to get passionate about.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2003 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise Records, and is used for informational purposes only.