Neil Young / Hawks & Doves
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Following the triumph of Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks & Doves benefited from the enormous critical goodwill Neil Young had amassed, though fans and critics nevertheless were baffled by its set of obscure acoustic and country-tinged songs. The seven-plus-minute “The Old Homestead” (copyright 1974) was interpreted by some as an allegory for Young’s relationship to CSNY, perhaps because that was the only way to make any sense of the most mysterious Young lyric since “The Last Trip to Tulsa.” In retrospect, now that it’s known Young was distracted by domestic medical concerns while working on the album, its theme of perseverance in the face of adversity, both in a personal context of family commitment (“Stayin’ Power,” “Coastline”), and in a national context of hard work and patriotism (“Union Man,” “Comin’ Apart at Every Nail,” “Hawks & Doves”) seems more apparent, as does the sense that Young may have been trying to fulfill his recording contract (even with the inclusion of trunk songs like “The Old Homestead,” the album runs less than half an hour) while devoting a bare minimum of his time and attention to the effort. The result is correspondingly slight.