From a 2014 Facebook post:
I really think that Neil Young might be the greatest ARTIST that rock and roll has yet produced. Not that he’s always done great MUSIC or written great songs; he hasn’t. If any musician has been inconsistent, it’s been Neil.
But what makes Neil a great artist– the thing that I love about him– is that he’s always exploring and moving his work forward through the work itself.
So he explores these side roads through these album-length projects— “hey, wouldn’t rockabilly be cool? Why not go country? Wouldn’t an album about cars be cool? Wouldn’t it be cool to do an electronica album? How about an album-length novel? How about recording an album entirely on acetate discs?”
And so he does these things, and when you hear them, you think “Jesus…he’s lost his way… he’s lost his mind… he’s obsessed, what’s he thinking? How does the record company put up with him?” Etc etc. But through this work, he’s just doing what artists do: exploring, experimenting, except that instead of confining this exploration and experimentation to a notebook (IF the guy keeps a notebook, it’s gotta be the most interesting and fascinating thing ever. I mean, given what the guy releases , what does he think about and REJECT??) he releases it, puts it out there.
And the result, at least, as I’ve always said to people, is “Neil may not always be GREAT. But he’s always interesting.”
And the best part is that, every few years, he’ll come out with this grand STATEMENT of an album (FREEDOM, HARVEST MOON, RAGGED GLORY) where all of these insanely disparate pieces come together with other pieces you didn’t even know about, and you think “Damn, this guy’s brilliant. How did he THINK of this? He’s just as brilliant as ever.”
And people who weren’t paying attention wonder where it all came from, when, actually, if they’d been listening, he’d been moving ahead of them the whole time.
Amazing. I feel lucky to have been able to watch his career unfold.