The Old Country Waltz / Saddle up the Palomino / Hey Babe / Hold Back the Tears / Bite the Bullet / Star of Bethlehem / Will to Love / Like a Hurricane / Homegrown
by Stephen J. Chant
All of Neil's fans should own American Stars 'n' Bars, if only for the seminal November '75, 8:14 minute "Like a Hurricane." AS'n'B is one of Neil's scattershot albums, in which he explores a variety of themes, including rock, country, ballad, even the waltz. Side one is performed by Neil, Crazy Horse, and the Bullets. The Bullets (a humorous, oblique reference to the clitoris) are Linda Ronstadt, Nicolette Larson and Carole Mayedo.
Opening with the rural-paced "The Old Country Waltz" and "Saddle Up the Palomino," Neil then delivers a one-two-three roundhouse of excellent, romantically inspired songs with the warm "Hey Babe," the hot "Hold Back the Tears," and the blistering "Bite the Bullet."
Side Two is a total mishmash. Neil picks up a group that includes Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith, Tim Drummond and Karl Himmel for "Star of Bethlehem," then goes solo for "Will to Love," before joining up with the Horse for two classics, a raging "Hurricane" and a laconic and lovable "Homegrown."
AS'n'B remains one of my favorite albums, even after fifteen years. Neil demonstrates versatility and unpredictability in a very laid-back atmosphere, much like a favorite bar or back porch. At the very least, this is an album that should've warned David Geffen that in Neil Young, he wasn't getting a commodity driven by commercial success.