Then again, Young's also the rock and rollin' Ronald Reagan fan behind Trans, Everybody's Rockin', Re-ac-tor, This Note's for You, Landing on Water and (insert your dregs-de-la-dregs here). So what's to be dumbfounded about, aside from the mysteriousness of art itself? Indeed, if the remarkably passionless Are You Passionate? achieves anything, it reminds us again of the limits of craft and the vagaries of inspiration. How in the world does an album featuring the songs and voice of Neil Young and the musical support of Booker T. Jones, as well as one MG (bassist Duck Dunn) and one member of Crazy Horse (feedback slinger Pancho Sampedro), come off this indolent, brittle and dreary?
The precise "how" of all that remains ineffable, but the depressing results are obvious enough. Young's songs have rarely been so pedestrian and prosaic. (When I hold you in my arms, begins one song, it's a breath of fresh air.) He makes excessive use of his increasingly inexpressive falsetto and, with eleven songs dragging out to 65 minutes, not enough use of an editor. The real problem, though, is the music. Young and Sampedro's fuzzy guitar lines never quite mesh with Jones and Dunn's spare R&B -- where's Steve Cropper when you need him? -- and the disc's soul-inspired grooves ("Two Old Friends" plays the changes from "People Get Ready," for instance) come off inelastic as concrete. It's hard to roll when the drummer, Steve Potts, sounds like he's having to pound each stroke through wet cement.