Ol' Shakey doesn't so much release albums these days as set his scrapbook mind to music. Psychedelic Pill is his second album with Crazy Horse this year, but their first of original material for a decade. It's a double album, 85-plus minutes long, and the opening track, "Driftin' Back", falls just short of the half-hour mark.
"Driftin' Back" is classic Neil Young. Not the classic Neil Young of Harvest or On the Beach, you understand, but the classic Neil Young who can (and so will) be funny and infuriating, subtle and clunky, thrilling and indulgent all at the same time.
It is one hell of a way to open an album but it is also raises expectations. These will not so much be dashed as the album goes on but gently eroded. Because for all his three-chord tricks, there are moments here where the guitar work-outs feel so stretched that it sounds as if the musicians are being propped up in order to continue playing along. There are also moments of sublime majesty.
What the casual fan wants to know is this: is Psychedelic Pill the first essential Neil Young album since 1989's Freedom, which it most closely resembles? Perhaps. But even if it's not, it's by some way the best non-essential album Neil Young has ever made.