The first snow has already fallen, and the consumers of Black Friday rang in big numbers for retailers nationwide. For the innumerable value-hungry shoppers, this can be a great time to cash in on holiday gifts. It can also be a great time for record companies to cash in on superfluous compilation packages featuring any number of its valuable artists.

Music Reviews

Thus is the case with Neil Young’s aptly-titled holiday grab bag Greatest Hits. Now, this is in no way a pot shot at one of the finest rock songwriters in history, but rather a critique of this simplistic and lowbrow effort to compile songs from more than 25 years of Neil Young’s amazing career.

Greatest Hits covers nearly three decades and five Young musical endeavors, chronologically spanning his most popular material from Crazy Horse, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and his collaborations with Stray Gators and Pearl Jam. Musically, the songs are still beautifully crafted, and capture the soul-drenched folk and bluesy riffing that has made Young a hero in the landscape of rock’n’roll stardom. Obviously, no harm can be done with the eerily twanged 1970 tune “Ohio” or the ultra-classic “Cinnamon Girl.” The politically charged anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World” voices the musical antidote for a free-spirited generation of music lovers. It’s not Young’s material, though, that makes Greatest Hits a mediocre offering.

Surprisingly, this is Young’s first hits compilation in more than 25 years, so the pressure of slimming down his incredibly vast catalog of tunes proves to be too daunting a task. The tragic flaw of this hits compilation comes in the lethargic pacing and odd sequencing of the album’s tracks. Placing his most popular songs chronologically poses an annoying and strangely paced listen, leaving the loyal Young fan to ponder the highlights and lowlights of the three-decade collection. On a more positive note, the album boasts a “Because Sound Matters: Highest Quality Audio DVD” feature that proves to be a sonically pleasing transfer from the superior vinyl sound quality of Young’s early years.

The song choices are standard for the casual Young listener, but if chronological order is the goal here, where are the classic songs from 1975’s Tonight’s the Night? Granted, a Young enthusiast could go on for hours about what should have been included, but why not take a bit more consideration in sculpting a cream-of -the-crop compilation for one of the most influential music icons ever? In addition, the album’s packaging, though showcasing a wonderfully expressive photo of a youthful Young, comes off as abruptly and clumsily thrown together.

Greatest Hits will succeed as a holiday moneymaker for Reprise, and will undoubtedly please the casual Neil Young fan. Yet, because of the lack of bonus material — save the music video laced, sub-par DVD extra — like rare or unreleased tracks for the loyal Young follower, this set falls short. Greatest Hits could have been executed more fittingly for an incomparable voice of folk and rock music.

 

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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