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Neil Young - Environmental Revolutionary

Summer in the Northern Rocky Mountains
Colorado Northern Rockies, Photo - Harry Strharsky

Contributing Writer: Kevin Kihslinger - Millennial - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Neil Young is my legend, he is the top of my Mount Rushmore; over 40 studio albums, 8 live albums, and dozens of others with numerous bands. He is my desert island artist and makes me sometimes wonder why I ever listen to anything else. There is an album for any mood, any day, and any situation, and when you are in that jamming mood, there is nothing better than Neil with Crazy Horse.

In 2019 they were back at it again with Colorado, their first album together in 7 years since the release of Psychedelic Pill. A Neil Young with Crazy Horse album always stirs great excitement. Fans always desire a return to the mind melting jams that Crazy Horse has given over the year. “My, My, Hey, Hey”, “Powderfinger”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By the River”, and “Cortez the Killer” are all monster jams that are at the top of Neil’s greatest hits.

Anything short of an album filled with similar songs would be a disappointment to so many, but then so many may have forgotten who Neil really is. He is an artist who has done one thing throughout his career. He has produced the music that he has wanted to produce. He tells the story he wants to tell and plays the music that is in his heart. Those who follow Neil know that right now Mother Earth is what is on his mind and saving this priceless environment is what is in his heart.

the Crags, Forest State Park, Colorado, Summer
The Crags, Forest State Park, CO Photo - Harry Strharsky

Throughout Neil’s career he has used music as an avenue to influence the minds that choose to listen, and why not. Is there anything more powerful and beautiful than music? Nothing else can bring so many different people together at one time. Music knows no language, no race, no color. It is celebrated by the youngest to the oldest and can be created by anyone who lets their mind go. It can make peace, end depression, help you forget, and make you remember. It is a time machine that can take you from your beginning to your end and transport you to places you have not yet gone.

Neil’s career is filled with songs urging us to stand up and fight for the preservation of the beautiful world we live in. “Who’s going to stand up”, “Mother Earth”, “Be the Rain” and yes, “After the Goldrush” are all songs that have called us to fight for mother nature. Neil has sung throughout his career that we need to stand up to big money, to big business, and government corruption and do what is right to leave this planet better than we found it. As Neil has moved through his career, his love for the environment has deepened, his sense of urgency has increased, and his fight to save what gives us all life has strengthened.

Colorado may have no block buster hits, and most likely will not have any songs that make an essential Neil Young play list. However, it is filled with songs that we need to hear right now, songs with direct messages describing the destruction of our world. In “Green is Blue”, which I was fortunate to hear live last January at the Riverside in Milwaukee, contains the line of the album,

“There is so much we didn’t do, that we knew we had to do, and we know why green is blue”.

In fact, the entire song could be posted as a blog by itself.

“We heard the warning calls, ignored them, we saw the weather change, we saw the fire and floods, we saw the people rise, divided, we fought each other while we lost our coveted prize”.

Our ignorance over the last few decades is depressing, and the work required to change it can wear down even the most positive activist.

“She Showed Me Love” is another song where Neil simply tells us how it is:

“Old white guys killing mother nature”.

and later;

“I saw young folks fighting to save mother nature”.

Two lines that seem to tell the tale of the history of world. Old power stuck in their ways, unable to adapt to the changing world around them. The young, hopeful and determined that there is a better way, understand change must happen. It's a 13-minute knock your socks off jam telling us that we have been here before, we have fought similar wars, and we have won them.

Then, in true Crazy Horse form, Neil rocks out with a climate change revolution song. “Shut it down” screams that we...

“Have to shut the whole system down”.

If we want to save the animals, to save history, and to save our future we must shut it down now! This is the truth. Our system must change from the top to the bottom, from the producer to the consumer, from the teacher to the student. “Shut it down” is a rally song, it gets stuck in your head, you sing it all day, and as you look at the world around you, you realize it might be exactly what has to happen.

Mountain Wildflower with Beetle
Summer Wildflower, Photo - Harry Strharsky

The last real environmental song on the album is “I do”. It seems to be a conversation between Neil and a friend. A friend who really appreciates the environment and all that it offers, but a friend who is not worried about what is happening, the climate change naysayer. This is a conversation we have all had, we all know that friend. However, Neil expresses a belief in this friend.

“I know you care, I know you ask all the same questions I do”.

Neil shows blind faith that everyone knows what is happening around them. He doesn’t know why he feels this way, but he does. Let's hope his faith in people is rewarded with action.

Colorado gets its message across perfectly. It also gives the listener the classic Neil we so hoped to hear. I cry every time I listen to “Olden Days” as it makes me think of everyone that has touched my life that is no longer in it. I shout out “he’s back” listening to “Help Me Lose My Mind”, “Milky Way” and “She Showed Me Love” as they are songs that flip your eyelids inside out and take you on that space ride through the giant planetarium in your brain. These songs make you lose track of time and somehow make you a better person on the return flight home. There is enough classic jamming on this album to make it a must play. Its message however is too important to not be heard.

Neil battles with his emotions on this album. He has regret for what we have done to the world, he fears the beauty we are losing, but he is still filled with hope that we can save our most coveted prize, Mother Earth. Neil understands that he has an avenue to motivate, to create soulful music that can inspire multiple generations to take a stand. Hopefully, we can all find 'our' avenue to make a change and believe it will make a difference.

If you do not like the music, you can change the dial. Please, though, do not change the dial on Mother Earth.



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