Neil Young – Re-ac-tor

9.9 Overall Score
Songs: 10/10
Song writing: 10/10
Cover art: 9/10

Excellent hooks and riffs, plenty of loud and dirty fuzz guitar, a good album the freshen up your life with.


Neil Young
Reprise Records

Neil Young. I know what you are thinking. Heart of Gold, country rock, CSNY, one hit wonder; any or all of the above. But not a single one of those is an accurate description of Neil Young; in fact pinning him down is quite hard. You see, most of the big names in rock from the 60’s and 70’s became pretty lame after a while. They got rich with a formula and they stuck with it, all the while their new albums got worse and worse as they got richer and richer. Only a very small handful of bands stayed relevant throughout their entire careers. The Beatles were one. Led Zeppelin another. Queen. And a precious few more. Unfortunately all of those bands were stopped dead in their tracks so we don’t know what they would be doing now, but I am sure that it would be great. And before I go on to make my point, a question – what is the name of the latest Rolling Stones album? You don’t know? That makes two of us. And whatever it is you can be sure that it is almost assuredly not groundbreaking, interesting or even very good for that matter.

In my opinion Neil Young is the greatest single songwriter of the 20th century and beyond. He has NEVER stopped experimenting. He still does it today. I saw him sampling and automating on the 1982 Trans tour and it was amazing at the time. One guy playing with a whole band of machines that he programmed. He even sat down and explained to the audience what it all was and how it worked. It is commonplace now, but it was not then. Neil the innovator.  It was mighty impressive that night. Also, I do not think he cares if his records sell or not. He just does what he wants. Whatever it may be. If it sells, great. If not, still great. The album I am reviewing today, re-ac-tor, dates to 1981, so it is not new, but it is sure not dated in any way and he has continued to experiment since then so it is still relevant. Great music is always relevant.

There are actually “two” Neil Youngs. One plays acoustic guitar and sings, such as on Heart of Gold. The other Neil Young plays electric with a backup band called Crazy Horse, and that is where he goes wild. HUGE amounts of fuzz, noise, feedback and some of the best and heaviest riffs you have ever heard. 1981’s re-ac-tor was played with Crazy Horse. If you like that sort of thing then you should love this. It beats any current band by light years. I never get tired of it – not since the day I bought it when it came out.

I would like to give you some standout tracks but there are not any – they are all great.  But I’ll hit on some things that, if you are starting to lean in this direction, will convince you to check it out. How about a nine-plus minute song full of fuzz guitar licks where he keeps repeating “got mashed potatoes” and “ain’t got no T-bone” over what is basically a couple of chords and Neil jamming on the fuzz licks. And it WORKS! Man, does it work. You might think it would not, but it does, in a big way. Then there is “Shots,” close to eight minutes of greatness. Play it loud. It will blow you away. Those are just two songs on an album full of great stuff. This is NOT Heart of Gold. Go out, right now, and buy it. You won’t be sorry. By the way I have several covers of songs from this album and some other electric Neil on YouTube, just punch in my name.

One day you will thank me for this. You’re welcome.




Jeff Strichart
Author: Jeff Strichart View all posts by
Jeff Strichart has been a frustrated musician for almost forty years. He is also a producer and has mixed and/or mastered many local Colorado bands. Aside from his music and production he enjoys his dogs, motorcycles, collecting vintage BMX bicycles, reading and his new found love of sound design using hardware synthesizers and has licensed material to the BBC for use in their television programs.

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