Neil Young + Promise of the Real: “The Monsanto Years” (Reprise)
Neil Young rails against GMOs, Walmart, Citizen’s United and, of course, Monsanto, on a protest album on which he’s backed by Promise of the Real, a band fronted by Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. The agribusiness giant gets hit repeatedly with Young arguing “no one can own the sacred seed” on “Rules of Change,” describing the life of a farmer with the company in control of all seeds in the title cut and tying Monsanto together with Starbucks on the jaunty, whistle-along “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop.”
The old folkie doesn’t let up anywhere on the record. Even the acoustic guitar/harmonica country-ish ballad “Wolf Moon” decries “thoughtless plundering” as it celebrates the beauty and strength of nature.
Young’s protests aren’t confined to agricultural issues, taking on “Big Box” retailers, the crushing of democracy by corporations under the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling and jabs Justice Clarence Thomas for having worked for, you’ve guessed it, Monsanto.
Promise of the Real feels like Crazy Horse Jr., delivering the same kind of buzzing, loose rock ‘n’ roll of Young’s legendary backing band while adding some harmony vocals that recall Young’s Laurel Canyon-style recordings of the late ’70s.
“The Monsanto Years” isn’t likely to be a hit — whatever that is in the today’s era of streaming music. After all, even Young admits that “People Want to Hear About Love” not “pipeline politicians” corporations “hijacking” rights, poverty and Citizens United.
But he’s going to talk about them any way.
Rating: WWW out of 5