Look Homeward Angel

Steve Young

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Look Homeward Angel Review

by Thom Jurek

The late '80s saw Steve Young spending a lot of time in Norway, recording and releasing two of his most enigmatic (and deeply satisfying) albums, Long Time Rider and this one. Look Homeward Angel was recorded with famed guitarist Jonas Fjeld, who along with Young produced the album. It features some of the songwriter's most poignant and rollicking material. From the opener, "Lonely Boy," where the shimmer of acoustic guitars are underscored by the atmospheric synthesizer work of Kjetil Bjornstadt and the ringing electric six strings of Fjeld and Brent Bnelesson, it tells a tale of hard-won maturity and acceptance of life for what it is while yearning all the same. "Ridin' Down the Highway" is Southern rock at its best; kicking the Waylon Jennings one-two, one-two rhythm to accompany a road-weary musician's testimony -- "I've been cut by that old cocaine, boys/I've been cut by that old alcohol/I've been cut by some pretty women/But the deepest cut of all/Is ridin' down the highways/Goin' to do another show" -- the glissandi synths usher in David Olney's gorgeous "If My Eyes Were Blind." Bjornstadt understands the commitment in this love song and he frames it rather than carries Young's sung lines. Cut-time rhythm shuffles through easily, allowing the lyric all of its power and majesty. Three roots rockers bordering on honky tonk, rockabilly, and straight-up '50s swagger follow the opening trilogy before the most powerful of love songs commences: Jubal Young's song written for Steve, his father, about his childhood as an itinerant songwriter and rambler's son. Young's own courage in even performing it is remarkable, but the performance is devastating in its searing honesty and raw acceptance amid the rings of acoustic and electric guitars accompanied by a hypnotic rhythm track: "Broken hearts will pass away/Love will find another way/Broken hearts will pass away, I know." The final track, the title, influenced by Young's own life and Thomas Wolfe's novel of the same name, is a hopeful song about dying and what death means in how people live in this moment. Lilting guitar lines, floating synths, and slow, spare lyrics underline Young's narrative obsession in trying to tell the truth about his own life, about what he sees and what he feels about death and what comes after. What a finish. It's like hearing a future Buddha sing. Like Long Time Rider and Switchblades of Love, Look Homeward Angel is simply far ahead of its time.

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