Reprise – 2002 – 65 minutes
Neil Young's 38 album career has taken him in many directions, with varying degrees of success. Rock's greatest survivor has turned out MOR country rock, acoustic protest songs, rockabilly, proto-grunge and, most infamously, electronic dirges, over the last five decades.
'Are You Passionate?' sees him take a step in a new direction – Memphis and the classic soul sound of the Stax label. To this end he lines up legendary band leader Booker T Jones on keyboards, and his fellow MG, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass. The duo also share production duties.
Opener 'You're My Girl' borrows liberally from the MG's 'Time Is Tight' and though it treads uncomfortably close to pastiche, it just about works. 'Mr Disappointment' and 'Differently' are much better, with Young almost treading into Van Morrison territory with his fusion of soul, folk and rock.
'Let's Roll' courts controversy with its first-person account of the infamous flight that crashed in Pennsylvania following a struggle in the cabin between passengers and hijackers. Starting in a fairly pedestrian manner, it turns into an impressive instrumental workout. The lyrics are very raw – he must have penned these heartfelt words soon after the event.
Young's freewheeling guitar, and the body and rhythmic underpinning provided by the MGs gives 'Are You Passionate?' a lush, full sound that his recent releases have lacked. This is one of the best releases the Canadian has managed since his Sixties/Seventies heyday, and it's enough to make the pathetic likes of Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney green with envy.
Still vital after all this time. Who would have thought it?
Tracklisting: You're My Girl - Mr Disappointment – Differently - (Quit) Don't Say You Love Me - Let's Roll - Are You Passionate? - Goin' Home - When I Hold You in My Arms - Be With You - Two Old Friends - She's a Healer