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Neil Young, 64: Still going strong (Adam Vollick/Adam Vollick)
Neil Young, 64: Still going strong (Adam Vollick/Adam Vollick)


Neil Young rebuilt, with help from Daniel Lanois Add to ...

Hitchhiker also opened the door for the record's electric side, Lanois said, and set a standard for a type of vocal delivery. "It has a sense of urgency in it," he said. "and it touches people, beyond the testimonial and autobiographical aspects of Neil's story."

Young seems to turn a critical eye on his own public statements in Love and War, singing that "I don't really know what I'm saying" on either subject, and confessing that "I sang for justice and hit a bad chord." But there's no apology: "I said a lot of things I can't take back," he sings, "Don't know if I wanna." The point seems to be to press on, to keep trying for a better result. Similarly, there's a streak of recuperative optimism in the final Rumblin', the album's most prophetic statement, and in some ways, its most humble ("when will I learn how to give back?" he sings).

The sonic environment is different for each song, in part because Young set up in different rooms of the house for different tunes, recording everything full volume to get full intensity. And though much of the record is grounded in two main key zones (D and E), he tweaked his guitar tunings in different ways for five of the songs, to vary the tonal colour. For Angry World, he hit on a detuning he'd never used before, entering a zone where familiar chord fingerings produced weirdly new results. But he sees even stranger developments on his horizon.

"We've got the sounds, the pictures, the production, the dubs, the lyrics, the music and the voice," he said. "I guess the only other part of this band that we don't have, is the part that could be played by the Internet guy. We haven't met this guy yet, and we don't know if we could control him. I wouldn't like to put him in a box, but yeah, somebody's got to play the Internet. Everybody's using it, everybody knows what it is. But there's another element to this being, this social element that we haven't explored yet. It could be friendly, it could reach out and interact with us. I don't know really how it would work, but there's something there."

Whatever happens when the Internet guy shows up, Young has found a direction for the future. To hear him talk about it, Le Noise may mark a turning point in his career.

"It's fun to listen to, it doesn't sound contrived, it just sounds new," he said. "Very zoomed in. A door has opened, and I love it. I'll continue writing, knowing that I can do this."

As part of Nuit Blanche, Daniel Lanois presents a film and music spectacle, Later That Night at the Drive-in, at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square Saturday night.

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