Are You Passionate?
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2002, Volume 9, #5
Written by John Metzger
Following the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center last September, the rock ’n‘ roll community came together in an unprecedented way, performing a series of benefit concerts and crafting new songs in a show of support for America. Some of these — like Bruce Springsteen’s My City of Ruins — were spectacular, while others — like Paul McCartney’s Freedom — were dismal. But most — like Neil Young’s Let’s Roll — tread some middle ground, not really ranking among the best or worst that the artist has to offer.
Part of the problem with Let’s Roll is its uncomfortable lyricism. While it pays tribute to those on ill-fated Flight 93 — the plane which crashed into a Pennsylvania field after its passengers struggled with hijackers — it’s also impossible not to take it as supportive of the current Administration and their poorly planned war-run-amuck. To be fair, at the time of the song’s writing, America was in shock and was more willing to concede to its leaders’ whims. But with lines like, "We’re goin’ after Satan/On the wings of a Dove," the song now stands as an odd statement from someone like Young who long has rallied against war and unjust government policy. Then again, Young also spent a portion of the ’80s speaking in support of Ronald Reagan.
Regardless, when Let’s Roll is taken within the broader context of Young’s latest release Are You Passionate?, its flippant anger mutates into a catalyst for change. From the father-to-daughter dialogue of You’re My Girl to the recuperative power of a rock-solid relationship on She’s a Healer, Young delves deep into the notion of love as well as the need for family, friends, and faith in something bigger. And on Goin’ Home, he draws a line from America’s Wild West to today’s corporate world, painting a surreal clash of cultures that ends only when materialism fades away.
Change is the driving force behind Are You Passionate? as even the music Young lays down beneath his words is starkly different than anything he’s created before. Instead of the harsh, angst-ridden tones that he tends to infuse into his electrified outings — only Goin’ Home features Crazy Horse and contains the familiar Neil Young rock ’n‘ roll chug — Are You Passionate? retains the beauty of his more acoustic-oriented efforts. Flanked by a line-up that includes Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve "Smokey" Potts, and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro, Young has created the most soulful album of his career. And, by softening the edges a bit, several of the tracks wind up sounding like Motown classics, while the rest could pass as lost collaborations with Carlos Santana. As a result, Are You Passionate? resonates with a deeply rooted sense of spiritualism, making it a loosely-based concept album for the post-9/11 world — a place where quality beats quantity and solace can be found within the heart and mind, not within material possessions.
Are You Passionate? is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box