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The Independent Culture
Neil Young: Broken Arrow (Reprise, CD/ tape). Neil Young was once taken to task by his record company for producing music that didn't sound like Neil Young. Broken Arrow, on the other hand, sounds too much like Neil Young. The gnashing guitar, the frail, decrepit voice, the vaguely mystic lyrics - the only surprise is how diluted and uninspired it has all become. On Young's fourth album in two years (including the recent soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man), even the trusty backing band, Crazy Horse, can barely rouse themselves to a canter. There are glimmers of the usual ragged glory in "Slip Away" and in the hushed acoustic ballad "Music Arcade", but they don't redeem a sparse collection of two-minute songs, and 10-minute songs that would have been two-minute songs were it not for the dribbling guitar solos. The last track is a blatant filler. A plodding Jimmy Reed 12-bar, "Baby What You Want Me to Do", was recorded live in a good ole boys' watering hole, with lots of chattering, laughing, glass-chinking and the occasional "Oh Yeah!" in the background. This would seem to be the level of attention that Broken Arrow deserves. Nicholas Barber

Nigel Kennedy: Kafka (EMI, CD). Kafka wrote a story called Metamorphosis; a lot of the songs on the album are about change; so it had to be called Kafka, didnit? After pondering his next move for a couple of years, Nigel Kennedy has returned. "Thanks for taking the time to listen to my stuff," he writes in the CD insert, signing off, "All the best, Nigel" - so at least we're still good friends. Nige has come back as a soft composer. There are songs about sex-change, changing elements and "man-enforced changes on the planet" but Kafka's style hasn't reached Nigel's lyrics. To quote "Transfigured Night": "The moonlight / Shines down on rolling hills / Yeah / Hello Edward Elgar." The sound is electric, studio-bound, very obviously post-Hendrix at times, and a countertenor does a lot of the singing. Kennedy still plays the violin very nicely, there are a couple of jauntily inflected jazz-folk tunes, and a sweet duet with Stephane Grappelli. But basically this is a well- meaning mess. And would somebody please put him straight about Jimi Hendrix? He was not "a classical composer just like Bach or any of the others". No offence meant to Jimi or Johann, but "that kind of stuff", as Nigel would say, is just untrue. Dermot Clinch

Reggae Classics: Serious Selections Vol 2 (Rewind Selecta, CD). Essential soundtrack to summer with a collection of Seventies and Eighties rockers' favourites, including Keith Rowe's lubricious "Groovy Situation", Jacob Miller's marvellously dumb "Suzy Wong", Webby Jay's reworking of the Stax classic "In the Rain", and the bonkers instrumental "Stalag 17" by the Techniques All Stars, wherein Ansel Collin's Hammond organ has to be heard to be believed. Phil Johnson

Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: Chamber Works. Kremerata Musica (Deutsche Grammophon, CD only). What the Viennese radicals got up to before they were radical, including a callow jeu d'esprit from Schoenberg, a pair of passionately restrained cello pieces from young Webern, and 16-year-old Mahler's Quartet Movement: fervid, full-bodied, and bristling with echoes of Schumann and Brahms. Schoenberg's complex and rewarding Phantasie Op 47 completes the programme, and violinist Gidon Kremer's appallingly named but top-rank ensemble gives some of the finest chamber performances to be released in recent months. DC