Young as Soul Man? Believe it. In his mid-Sixties pre-Buffalo Springfield youth, Young played... Read More
in a band called the Mynah Birds, which included future funk maven Rick James, and was briefly signed to Motown Records. And like most of the singer's makeovers -- from the fluorescent computer games of Trans
to the grunge touches of Mirror Ball -- Are You Passionate?
hums on Young's timeless brand of fossil fuel: love that burns, faith that endures and guitar solos that keep searching for a heart of gold.
Consider the jagged guitar line that runs through the new album's centerpiece, "Goin' Home" -- nearly all nine minutes of it. Young has been playing versions of that solo for three decades, and it reverberates like Morse code through his past, through "Cowgirl in the Sand," "Like a Hurricane" and huge chunks of Re-ac-tor and Ragged Glory. On "Goin' Home," he patiently surfs the thundering tom-tom waves of Crazy Horse (it's the sole track on which his longtime backing band appears) and adds a new chapter to his ongoing reinvention of America's past. Here, Custer makes his last stand at a corporate headquarters, surrounded by "assorted slimes." Young's surrealist imagery, the collision of the Old West and the New Greed, recalls the audacious historical juxtapositions that lit up earlier classics such as "Powderfinger," "Cortez the Killer" and "Pocahontas."
This turbulent epic is sandwiched by some of Young's breeziest groove music ever. With three-fourths of Booker T. and the MG's on board (including Steve Potts, the band's drummer since 1994), Young makes his intentions clear by nicking the guitar riff from Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose" on the opening "You're My Girl," a sweet song about a daughter's transition to adulthood. Dunn's bass weaves and Potts' drums bob, gently but insistently urging him on, while Jones' Hammond organ hovers like a benevolent apparition. On "Be With You," the rhythm-guitar accents pay tribute to the muscular terseness of the one absent MG, Steve Cropper.
Young embraces not just the music but the indomitable spirit of Southern soul. Even though the blues come knocking on "Mr. Disappointment," "Differently" and "Don't Say You Love Me," Young fends them off with determined optimism that is both articulated ("I'm never quittin' you/Even if you quit me") and felt, in the lyricism of his guitar playing and the buoyancy of Dunn's rolling bass tempos. "Are You Passionate?" and "When I Hold You in My Arms" are luminous aff