After a largely indifferent 1980s, Freedom signals a creative rebirth for Neil Young, back dabbling in his preferred styles of hard rock and gentle folk. Two alternate treatments of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ bookend Freedom: a rock anthem begins the album, while it ends with an acoustic live version with a crowd that is too busy cheering along to the ironically peppy chorus to listen to the despairing social commentary of the verses.
Just like they did on the Eldorado EP, ‘On Broadway’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ rock hard, and Young balances them with tender ballads ‘Wrecking Ball’, ‘Too Far Gone’, and ‘Hangin’ On A Limb’, with harmony vocals from Linda Ronstadt. Like a lot of albums from its era, Freedom suffers from bloated CD lengths – it could have been a great 40 minute album, but at sixty minutes it’s carrying long running times and weak songs; ‘Ways of Love’ is a 1970s’ outtake that would have been better suited to an outtakes collection than a proper album.
There’s a lot to like on Freedom, but it’s not quite fit to rank alongside Young’s best albums from his heyday.