Neil Young, ‘Chrome Dreams': Album Review
Of the many albums Neil Young has recorded and shelved over the years, perhaps none is more fabled than 1977's Chrome Dreams. Originally slated after the 1975 Crazy Horse collaboration Zuma, and 1976's Stills-Young Band LP Long May You Run, Chrome Dreams was dissected and many of its songs ended up on other records over the years, including Young's official 1977 offering, American Stars 'n Bars.
But as an entire piece, it's never seen the light of day, despite bootleggers' best intentions (various editions with conflicting track listings have been available since the early '90s) and Young's 2007 attempt at myth-busting, Chrome Dreams II, which had nothing to do with the album discarded three decades earlier. Now, as Young continues to clean out his archives with shelved and forgotten records (including Homegrown and Hitchhiker, two other albums he left unreleased in the mid-'70s), Chrome Dreams finally arrives in an official, approved edition. And it was worth the wait.
As with other albums in Young's "Special Release Series," this one includes mostly familiar songs – "Pocahontas," "Homegrown," "Sedan Delivery" and "Look Out for My Love," among them. And like those records, the new Chrome Dreams offers some of those songs in previously unheard versions and positions them in a new light. Will it replace the favorites you already know? Probably not. Is it Neil Young's best "Lost" album? Most likely.
The assembly of Chrome Dreams, even in 1977, was a hodgepodge. Tracks span 1974 ("Star of Bethlehem") through 1977 ("Hold Back the Tears") and most eventually ended up scattered throughout albums from the period, including American Stars 'n Bars, Comes a Time and Rust Never Sleeps. A handful didn't surface until much later: "Too Far Gone" on 1989's Freedom, "Stringman" on 1993's Unplugged. Within the new context, though, they sound more at home and of a piece.
Chrome Dreams is a softer album than what you'd expect from the era that produced Zuma, American Stars 'n Bars and Rust Never Sleeps. Half of the dozen songs are solo tracks with Young accompanying himself on guitar, piano and occasional percussion; Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith and Crazy Horse show up at other times. The famous version of "Like a Hurricane" from American Stars 'n Bars is here, but "Powderfinger" is featured in a solo acoustic take that first appeared on Hitchhiker in 2017. Decades of myth-building have pretty much guaranteed that Chrome Dreams won't live up to the expectations. But now that it's here and real, the album, thanks to its great song selection, merits its storied reputation.