Fork In The Road is 10 new songs with a dvd of the audio and 4 video clips - 3 new song videos and Neil performing "A Day In The e Life" in October 2008 (very much the same as we saw at Farm Aid a few weeks earlier). The new songs total just over 38 minutes, so no long jams or overly complex arrangements. All the songs have a similar theme - cars, driving, being green. The feel of the songs bring to mind some of Neil's sloppier works like Re-Ac-Tor (1981), Mirror Ball (1995), and Landing On Water (1986). The package is the typical mini-lp gatefold made out of cardboard that Neil has released with his last few discs. The production is really good - I was worried based on the content that was available on-line before the album was released - it sounded pretty raw.
1 - When World's Collide - not a bad opener, one of the better tracks.
The theme of movement and travel is present - "drivin down old route 66"
so it fits with the rest of the song content. This could be a standalone song.
2 - Fuel Line - very much in the ilk of cars and driving and being
green. Neil sings about the praises of alternative fuel electric cars
and how the world is ready, but "some old-timers" aren't. The lyrics
remind me of something you would hear in a Schoolhouse Rock song on a
3 - Just Singing A Song - this is a real good song, IMO the best one.
It has a great sounding lead guitar riff and a nice harmony. "Just
singing a song won't change the world". There is also "you can drive my
car, see how it rolls". There is a video for this song on the dvd - it
has Neil rowing a kayak on a lake and lip synching the words - very low
budget. It might mean that he is just one voice in an ocean and he can
sing about change, but how can it really make a difference. One of my
favorite songs from the collection and it could be a stand-alone song as well.
4 - Johnny Magic - Another good song that reminds me a little of
re-ac-tor. This is Neil's ode to his electric car project - LincVolt -
where he is converting a 10 mpg Lincoln Continental into an electric car
that gets over 100 mpg. I like this one as well - "home of the heavy
metal continental" with some decent guitar playing from Neil in the
5 - Cough Up The Bucks - Other than the annoying repeated chant, "Cough
up the bucks, cough up the bucks" this song could have fit nicely on
re-ac-tor. It is a little sloppy, but it rocks a little more than the
other songs with a nice harmony vocal - "where did all the money go?,
where did all the cash flow? , "it's all about my car, it's all about my
car, and my girl".
6 - Get Behind The Wheel - starts with a nice blues run and would have
fit nicely on 1988's This Notes For You (in fact, Neil uses some of the
same folks on this album as with TNFY). A blatant message for the car
enthusiast to get behind the wheel and drive. The song has a nice feel
and movement to it and some nice guitar playing by Neil.
7 - Off The Road - the first slower tempo song and a nice song at that.
It moves slowly but builds up with some nice harmonies. Almost a
lullaby in parts. "You can never take your eyes off the road".
8 - Hit The Road - Another rocking number with a bit of a phased guitar
sound from Neil. "She looks so beautiful with the top down" - so back
to the driving metaphors. The message is very clear here as it was on
"Get Behind the Wheel". "Let's hit the road and go to town".
9 - Light A Candle - Another slow number that could have been right at
home on 2000's Silver and Gold or Prairie Road from 2006. There is a
video of this song on the dvd as well - a low budget clip of Neil and
Pegi and a stainless steel trailer (that isn't moving) and a candle lit
in the window of the trailer. Another standalone song and one of the
better songs and I like it.
10 - Fork In the Road - The title track and the lengthiest at almost 6
minutes. Also a video, but it is so low budget and pixelated, I
couldn't watch it. Neil tries to mix humor with a message and I am not
sure works on either level.
So, another album from an artist with 45 plus years of creating music.
At 63, Neil is still creating and building worlds in his music that are
new and fresh and at the same time familiar. With other artists, this
would be laughable material because they wouldn't be able to pull it
off. Neil has never left the scene and that gives him the ability to
write and sing about such subject matter in a believable way. On the
negative side, and to use car-related analogies, this CD never really
kicks into high gear. Just when you begin enjoying the trip, it is
over. So, not a classic album from the starting line. If Neil were to never put out another album of new material, I am not sure I like the idea of FITR being his last such new release. Oh well, who knows what Neil has planned next....