American Stars 'n Bars
American Stars ‘n Bars is Neil Young's eighth studio album and was released in May 1977. He produced it together with David Briggs with also Tim Mulligan and Elliot Mazer involved. The recordings were made in two periods with the first almost three years before the release.
1. The Old Country Waltz
2. Saddle Up the Palomino
3. Hey Babe
4. Hold Back the Tears
5. Bite the Bullet
6. Star of Bethlehem
7. Will to Love
8. Like a Hurricane
American Stars ‘n Bars is one of the albums there Neil Young goes into the country with serious means. The first song “The Old Country Waltz” gives a hint about the old ways pretensions. The country is continually present in “Hey Babe” and “Hold Back the Tears”. American Stars ‘n Bars are filled with sweet melodies and the only sign of the electrified Young is in “Bite the Bullet” with a reminiscence of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but a disappointment in effort.
The front cover of the album shows the hero pressed onto the ground in a bar with apparently downscale clientele and it is all creatively arranged in a creative way of illustrating a glass floor. The roof seems to be missing and instead we can look up on the night sky with stars (as congenial to the title).
Perhaps the most memorable track is "Like a Hurricane", a song Young wrote two years earlier with Taylor Phelps and the arrangement stick out from the rest of the album due the involvement of Crazy Horse in this song. The lyrics of the song also counterparts with the album cover:
Once I thought I saw you
in a crowded hazy bar,
Dancing on the light
from star to star.
Another fantastic song on the album is “Star of Bethlehem” there Emmylou Harris shares the vocal with Young. The mix of styles is summed up in Paul Nelsons review in Rolling Stone:
the album can almost be taken as a sampler, but not a summation, of Young's various styles from After the Gold Rush and Harvest (much of the country rock) through On the Beach (the incredible "Will to Love") to Zuma ("Like a Hurricane" is a worthy successor to "Cortez the Killer" as a guitar showcase), with a lot of overlap within the songs.
To say a last word about American Stars 'n Bars: this is a very assessable album compared with some other Neil Young works and will probably serve well as an introduction of the artist to new listeners.