Neil Young—Prairie Wind (Reprise) [CD/DVD-Audio]

I guess I shouldn't have counted him out, but, after Neil Young's last few efforts—Silver & Gold, Are You Passionate?, and Greendale—I was starting to feel like he was in a rut. The recordings had their high points, all right; but, when I'm in the mood for Neil, I'll spin Comes a Time or Sleeps With Angels. Although I've only spent a few weeks with Prairie Wind, I think it'll stand beside Young's earlier triumphs. It's that good.

As you'll see on the DVD, Young recorded most of the songs in a studio with all of his musicians playing together to give the music a live quality. Likewise, the video doesn't rely on flashy editing or glitzy lighting; it's a no-frills, you're-in-the-room-with-the-band document of each tune. The musicians forge easy rolling grooves for Young's meditations on family life, growing old, and 9/11. The music's gentle melodic sweep is occasionally interrupted with something more playful, like Young's rollicking Elvis tribute, "He Was the King." I just wish Young had rocked a little harder on that one.

The sound accompanying the video is higher than CD resolution—it's 48/24 stereo—with no alternate Dolby or DTS surround mixes, which is fine with me. The DVD comes with a sweet-sounding CD, but I mostly listened to the higher-resolution DVD-Audio 96/24 stereo mix. Ah yes, the sonic purity brings more of the music's soul to the fore, so you can almost feel Prairie Wind's soft breeze.

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