Listening to a new Neil Young project in 2020 sounds like something that would be enjoyable. However, after listening to his latest EP, “The Times,” I was disappointed. Released on Sept. 18, Young’s latest EP is a collection of recordings he did at his home during his Fireside Sessions Series. These sessions were a series of live streamed concerts in which Young played some of his older songs from his home.
What is striking about “The Times” is how Young’s vocal quality is so much worse than on a traditional record. On the song “Ohio,” Young’s singing feels muted and weak. That’s a shame given how great Young’s guitar-playing is and how special the lyrics are.
I was disappointed that Young did not perform any of his newer songs on the EP and instead decided to cover his older tracks. However, he does cover Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and it sounds ok. It lacks the enthusiasm or the charm that Dylan incorporated but it is honorable that Young is attempting to cover such an iconic song.
There is no question that Young is a talented songwriter and guitar player. Songs like “Campaigner” and “Southern Man” are some of Young’s best songs. What prevents these songs from being perfect on “The Times,” however, is Young’s old and whimpering vocals. They may have sounded beautiful in the 1970s, but hearing his voice in 2020 reminds me of an old guy losing his voice but still trying his best to sing.
The most questioning part about “The Times” was how it was released. It was released exclusively on Amazon Music and Young’s website. I understand an artist posting their EP to their own website, but an exclusive on Amazon Music? Why did Young limit the reach of “The Times” to one streaming platform instead of posting the EP to other sites like Spotify and Apple Music? This inaccessibility divides Young from younger audiences who might be curious in listening to his music. Then again, what person below the age of 55 is actively looking forward to a Young EP in 2020?
If there is one thing that can be taken from Young’s latest EP it is that the man still loves making music and that he will continue to share his craft with others even as he gets older. With that being said, if Young is going to put out any other future projects, he should get better home recording equipment and focus on more original songs. He should also allow his music to stream on multiple platforms instead of being exclusive to one.
“The Times” had potential, but unfortunately, live streams do not always translate well to EPs. Young is a great songwriter and his classics will always remain timeless no matter the method of recording, but what makes his EP mediocre is the lack of attention to detail in audio recording and newer songs. “The Times” is nowhere near the worst project of 2020, but it will be Young’s most forgotten work.