Neil Young has spent much of the pandemic focusing on an ambitious slate of archival releases, but he’s recently started work on a follow-up to his 2019 LP Colorado. “I have five songs ready for the next album,” he recently wrote to fans on the Neil Young Archives, “so I think over time the rest will come and we may start recording again soon.”
Not much is known about the songs, but he did write in response to a fan letter that “recording with [Crazy] Horse will begin soon.” They backed Young on Colorado, which was their first album since Nils Lofgren stepped in for guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro following his retirement. Bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina have been a part of Crazy Horse since they started playing with Young in 1968.
Young hasn’t played to a live audience since Farm Aid in September 2019. And even though many major artists have announced their return to the road in the past few weeks, Young is remaining cautious. “No gigs planned until I am sure the audience is safe,” he wrote to a fan on the Archives.
And while his new album may be in its early stages, he recently finished work on his science fiction novel book Canary. As he told Rolling Stone in 2018, it centers around a worker at a solar company who uncovers horrible truths about his employers.
“He discovers the solar company he works for is a hoax,” Young said. “And they’re not really using solar. They’re using this shit — the guy who’s doing this has come up with a way to make bad fuel, the bad energy, this really ugly terrible stuff, and he’s figured out a way to genetically create these animals that give the energy to make the [fuel]. So he’s created this new species. But the species escapes. So it’s a fuckin’ mess. It’s a long story.”
Young is also concentrating on the third edition of his Archives Series box set, which will span from 1976 to 1990. It’ll contain numerous unreleased albums and films, including Oceanside-Countryside (the original Comes a Time), The Boarding House (a solo show from 1978), an early version of his 1985 LP Old Ways, an animated film based on his 1982 album Trans, and Live Freedom, which documents a 1989 European concert with Ben Keith and Poncho.
If all that isn’t enough, Young is also on the verge of rolling out official versions of famous bootlegs, including Carnegie Hall 1970, the Rainbow Theater 1973, the Bottom Line 1974, and a 1977 gig with the Ducks.
“The pandemic has given me the rare gift of focus,” he wrote to fans in March, “a strange gift for me — the opportunity to focus on what I have done and organize it for the music lovers out there who deserve to hear it my way. Not done by someone else after I’m gone. For this, I am truly thankful.”