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Neil Young

Don’t start wondering how you missed the first Chrome Dreams. It never existed, other than in the minds and bootleg collections of knowing Youngsters, who’ll happily explain that the title was initially pegged to a shelved late-’70s album. Chrome Dreams II isn’t intended as a sequel to that phantom, but it nods to its era by calling on old musician pals (among them Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina) and reviving a few tunes that had never found homes, notably “Ordinary People,” an 18-minute, 17-verse ode to America’s hard-working but ultimately beaten-down masses. That nasty-guitar-and-Stax-horns-saturated epic comes as a jolt following two lighter tunes, the idyllic “Beautiful Bluebird” and the resigned “Boxcar,” if only because, for more than a decade, Young’s albums — most recently the enraged Living with War and the country-informed Prairie Wind — have flip-flopped between his seemingly disparate acoustic and electric personalities. Chrome Dreams II is effective despite the sonic clash because, on both the new material and the leftovers, the loud (“Spirit Road”) and the soft (the soul ballad “Ever After”), it’s unified by its call to give props to spirit and humanity, a sentiment that, whatever it’s wrapped in, never gets old.

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