This the second studio album from Young’s collaboration with Promise Of The Real, the band centred around Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. The Monsanto Years was a much straighter country rock affair while The Visitor sets out for wider and more eclectic terrain, making it his best album since Psychedelic Pill.
‘Fly By Night’ is a primitive stomping track that hammers out the rhythm of ‘Heart Of Gold’ on xylophone and keyboards, alternating Young’s rant/rap with heavenly backing vocals. ‘Almost Always’, ‘Change Of Heart’ and the ten minute closer ‘Forever’ hark back beautifully to the acoustic country calm of Harvest Moon, Silver and Gold and Prairie Wind. ‘Diggin’ A Hole’ and ‘When Bad Got Good’ are the two relative throwaway tracks, sounding like glorified practice room blues-rock jams. They’re not bad but they’re fairly superfluous to the album as a whole.
Things really get interesting during ‘Carnival’. There’s nothing really comparable in his canon, perhaps POTR were the spark to open him up to an eight minute latin-infused psychedelic sonic trip with fantastical characters aplenty. Contrast that with the woeful hippy dippy, cliched protest lyrics of ‘Children Of Destiny’ and you get the wonderful and frustrating dichotomy of Neil Young, the creatively driven musician still picking flowers and kicking gravel in the ditch on the side of life’s proverbial highway.