Hawks & Doves

(1980), 6/10
Neil Young, ever the contrarian, followed up the excellent, acclaimed Rust Never Sleeps with the slight Hawks & Doves. The previous album it feels most akin to is American Stars ‘N’ Bars – like that album it often has a country feel, and it’s patched together from various sessions; side one is comprised from leftovers from the mid-1970s, while side two was recorded in 1980 specifically for the project.

The first side (labelled as Doves) is stronger; the solo acoustic cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ is gorgeous, while ‘Captain Kennedy’ feels like the most significant song on the album, although its meaning has always been obscure for me; I’m unsure if it’s an anti-war song, a song about America’s decline, or a metaphor for JFK.

While side one is substantial, the Doves side is more problematic, with an upbeat country groove that doesn’t serve the material well, and causes the songs to blend into each other; ‘Union Man’ and ‘Comin’ Apart At Every Nail’ almost feel like the same song.

There are a couple of very strong pieces on Hawks & Doves that are well worth hearing, but overall it’s one of Young’s less convincing efforts; at the time Young was dealing with domestic issues – his newborn son was seriously affected by cerebral palsy – and pieced it together quickly.

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