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Neil Young & Promise of the Real

"The Monsanto Years"


Grade: B-

If you think Neil Young doesn't like Donald Trump -- and general and for recently trying to appropriate his "Rockin' in the Free World" as a campaign theme -- don't ask his opinion on Monsanto. Instead, just listen to his latest album, which lays it all out in a 51-minute, characteristically polarizing screed against the agribusiness conglomerate. This is hardly new territory for Young, who sang decades about "Mother Nature on the run" and has never backed down from a good political protest, right down to calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush on 2006's "Living With War." "The Monsanto Years" is filled with reasoned rhetoric and populist sloganeering that sounds both righteous and right ("The seeds of life are not what they once were/Mother Nature and God don't own them anymore"), and is occasionally both illuminating and a bit hokey. But there's no doubting Young's genuine, raw passion as he slings socio-economic shots not only at Monsanto but also Wal-Mart, Safeway, the Supreme Court (and Justice Clarence Thomas specifically), Citizens United and Starbucks. Musically he teams with Willie Nelson's songs Lukas and Micah and their band Promise of the Real for a rough-hewn combination of Crazy Horse and the International Harvesters; those who like blistering guitars will certainly tuck into tracks such as "A New Day For Love," "People Want to Hear About Love," "Big Box" and "Workin' Man" -- regardless of their political affiliation. The set's on-the-fly attitude leads to some messy moments, particularly in the title track and "Rules of Change," but you'd be hard pressed to find another album that wears its heart so proudly, and fearlessly, on its sleeve.

New & Noteworthy:

Ky-Mani Marley, "Maestro" (Konfrontation): One of Bob Marley's many musical sons is joined by brother Damian Marley, Matisyahu and others on his sixth album.

Miguel, "Wildheart" (Bystorm/RCA): The high-heat R&B singer gets help from Lenny Kravitz, Wale and Kurupt on his third studio album.

Senses Fail, "Pull The Thorns From Your Heart" (Pure Noise): The New Jersey hardcore band's sixth album marks the debut of drummer Chris Hornbrook, who joined last year and also does duty with Poison The Well and Big Black Delta.

Slightly Stoopid, "Meanwhile...Back at the Lab" (Stoopid): The veteran alt.rock troupe gets some help from its friends on its eight studio outing, including Karl Denson, rapper Beardo and singer-songwriter Angela Hunte.

Tyga, "The Gold Album" (LastKings): The rapper dropped his long-delayed fourth album by surprise last week, unveiling a dozen new songs and a guest appearance by Lil Wayne.

X Ambassadors, "VHS" (IDinaKORNER/Interscope): This New York state rock outfit is the latest discover from producer Alex da Kid, with another of his recent finds, Imagine Dragons, guesting.

Also Out: Apathy, "Weekend at the Cape" (Dirty Version); Aranda, "Not The Same" (Wind-Up); Bilal, "In Another Life" (eOne); Consider The Source, "World War Trio (Parts II & III)" (Techne); Easton Corbin, "About To Get Real" (Mercury Nashville); Failure, "The Heart is a Monster" (Failure); Fronzilla, "Party People's Anthem" (Artery); David Nevue, "Winding Down" (Midnight Rain); Haley Slagle, "Liar's Best Friend" (self-released); Vince Staples, "Summertime `06" (Def Jam); Anthony Strong, "On Another Day" (self-released); Bill Wyman, Back To Basics" (Proper)

From The Vaults: Harry Chapin, "Live 1981: Bottom Line Archive Series" (BottomLine); Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Trilogy" (Deluxe Edition) (Razor & Tie); Fanny, "Fanny Hill" (Real Gone); Waylon Jennings, "Grand Ole Opry, Nashville TN" (Hotspur); The Lovin' Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic" (Sundazed); Richard Smallwood, "Anthology Live" (RCA Inspiration); 311, "Archive" (Volcano/Legacy); Pete Townshend, "Truancy: The Very Best of Pete Townshend" (UMe);

Soundtracks: >/b>Various Artists, "Magic Mike XXL" (WaterTower)

New Music Videos: The Who, "Live at Shea Stadium 1982" (Eagle Rock)

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