It doesn’t take long to get Neil Young’s point on “The Visitor.” The album's first words proclaim that the Canadian loves the USA and, contrary to what Donald Trump would have you believe, the country is “Already Great.”
If that isn’t clear enough, on “Almost Always,” Young sings “And I’m livin’ with a game show host/Who has to brag and has to boast/’Bout tearin’ down .../the things that I hold dear.”
That song, however, isn’t an angry protest number. It’s a classic Young acoustic ballad, perfectly played by Promise of the Real, the band led by Willie Nelson’s sons making its third on-record collaboration with Young.
They’re a versatile bunch that can keep up with Young, capable of moving from loose Crazy Horse-like garage stomps to the blues of “Diggin’ A Hole” to anthems like the environmentally themed “Stand Tall” and “Children of Destiny,” which blends strings into the rising, thudding plea for resistance on behalf of children today and tomorrow.
Not everything on “The Visitor” is political/protest -- its rambling, Spanish-tinged 8-minute centerpiece “Carnival” is about just that, a look under the big top at bearded ladies and the “elephant of enlightenment.”
But it’s mostly protest -- with Young turning a Trump campaign slogan against him, chanting “lock him up” on the clattering “When Bad Got Good” before closing with the gentle, preserve-the-earth “Forever.”
Perhaps the best measure of the effectiveness of “The Visitor” is that, unlike most protest records that will be listened to once or twice, then set aside, it continues to connect on repeat listens. That makes it Young’s best record of late. It also, unquestionably, gets its point across. Grade: B+