After 53 years, the current members of Crazy Horse and their on-and-off leader throughout this period Neil Young decided to do something they had never done before: Instead of creating new music together, they each recorded songs individually and compiled them on a new album, All Roads Lead Home, which appeared last Friday (March 31). For the first time, they also released music as Molina, Talbot, Lofgren & Young. Inevitably, it makes you think of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass), the only consistent members of Crazy Horse since the band’s official inception in 1969 on Young’s sophomore album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Nils Lofgren (guitar) who first joined in 1970, each wrote three tunes. Young contributed a solo version of Song of the Seasons, a tune that first appeared on the album Barn, which he released with Crazy Horse in December 2021. I reviewed it here at the time.
The four artists pointed to the dreadful pandemic to explain their approach. Sure, travel restrictions would have made gathering more challenging, not to mention the fact that getting sick would have put each gentleman at significant risk – after all, they aren’t exactly 18 any longer! Yet, modern technology could have overcome physical separation. Simply put, they could have recorded their parts individually and exchanged them via digital files. Of course, the latter would be hard to imagine for a band like Crazy Horse who have been known to create music together in the moment – a spontaneous approach that while it resulted in various outcomes has served them well overall!
In their review, Ultimate Classic Rock rightly notes All Roads Lead Home feels like “four solo records collected in a single home”. They add, “That makes for a scattered and occasionally unfocused listen, already a characteristic of recent Young and Crazy Horse albums.” That doesn’t bother me at all. True, there’s no apparent overarching vision or theme here, but I actually think the resulting variety of the songs enriches the listening experience. Also, unlike Neil Young and Nils Lofgren, frankly, I hadn’t exactly thought of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot as songwriters. Looking at previous albums released by Crazy Horse without Neil Young, such as Crazy Moon (1978) and Left For Dead (1989), reveals Molina and Talbot had done some occasional writing in the past.
I’d say ’nuff talk, let’s get to some music! The opener Rain is one of the songs by Talbot who also provides lead vocals in addition to acoustic guitar and piano – the first time I recall hearing Talbot sing! He’s backed by the Billy Talbot Band featuring Matt Piucci (electric guitar, organ, acoustic guitar, vocals), Michael Hamilton (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone bass, vocals), Mark Hanley (slide guitar, electric piano, vocals), Ryan James Holzer (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals), Jack Hughes (organ, piano, vocals), Tommy Carns (bass guitar, steel guitar, vocals) and Stephen Junca (drums, vocals). According to Talbot’s website, the Billy Talbot Band has been around since 2004 when he launched his solo career with the album Alive in the Spirit World – who knew! This all works for me!
You Will Never Know was penned by Lofgren. He also sings lead vocals and plays all instruments, including guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion. One of his brothers, Tom Lofgren, who is a musician as well and performs with his brothers Mike Lofgren and Mark Lofgren in a trio known as The Lofgren Brothers, is credited with vocals. I love Nils’ slide guitar work on this song, which has a bit of an Eagles vibe, especially once Tom sings harmony vocals. Love Will Keep Us Alive anybody?
Here’s Young’s aforementioned solo version of Song of the Seasons. You could say supplying only one tune that isn’t even new is a bit of a measly contribution. Again, I’d like to see the upside here. While Neil Young is very well-known as a prolific singer-songwriter, the same cannot be said about Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. As such, I like the fact that both guys are given room for three tunes each on the album! Coming back to Song of the Seasons, apart from singing, Young plays guitar and harmonica, making it classic acoustic Neil Young. This stripped-back approach and sound is a key reason why I fell in love with him in the first place many moons ago!
One of the album’s highlights is Look Through the Eyes of Your Heart, written by Molina. With its rugged sound, it’s got a Crazy Horse vibe, though perhaps not as rugged as you could imagine it when Young goes grunge. Like Talbot, Molina who sings lead chose to be backed by musicians other than his Crazy Horse bandmates: Marco Cecilia (guitars), Francesco Lucarelli (tremolo guitar), Anthony Crawford (acoustic guitar) and Marco Melino (drums). Backing vocals are provided by Brad Stock and Sonny Mone. I like how this tune came out!
Let’s do one more, The Hunter, another song co-written by Talbot. Like in his previous above tune, Talbot is singing lead and playing piano and guitar on this ballad, with backing by members of the Billy Talbot Band. In this case, the line-up is slightly modified and includes Payton Jerde (bass, vocals) in addition to Holzer, Hamilton, Junca and Hughes. In a post on Neil Young’s website neilyoungarchives.com Talbot explains the tune which he co-wrote with Ryan James Holzer came out of sessions with the band in late 2017. Once again, I have to say I’m impressed with the outcome!
So, what do you think? While All Roads Lead Home doesn’t break new musical ground, I feel it’s not only a pleasant listening experience, but it also elevates the profiles of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot as songwriters. And, who knows, perhaps the Crazy Horse formula has changed forever! Plus, who would have thought we’d see another band that has “& Young” as part of their name!
The last words shall belong to the members. “After Billy and I talking, we finally realized it was time to have our own album together..along with Nils, and the big guy, we thank wholeheartedly, adding a song,” Molina said in the aforementioned post on neilyoungarchives.com. “We now have what we feel is a good one.”
“I loved working on the All Ways Lead Home project,” Lofgren stated. “Thrilled to share it now. After 53 years of friendship and music, it was a joy to participate.”
“Playing with these guys for over 50 years is one of the greatest joys of my life,” added Young.
The album isn’t available on Spotify, most likely because of Young’s well-publicized beef with the streaming platform (you can hear his explanation in this interview snippet with Howard Stern), though you can stream it on Apple Music and I assume other platforms. Following is the tracklist:
01 Rain (Billy Talbot)
02 You Will Never Know (Nils Lofgren)
03 It’s Magical (Ralph Molina)
04 Song Of The Seasons (Neil Young)
05 Cherish (Billy Talbot)
06 Fill My Cup (Nils Lofgren)
07 Look Through The Eyes Of Your Heart (Ralph Molina)
08 The Hunter (Billy Talbot)
09 Go With Me (Nils Lofgren)
10 Just For You (Ralph Molina)
Sources: Wikipedia; Ultimate Classic Rock; Billy Talbot website; neilyoungarchives.com; YouTube