"Somethin' sayin' somethin'"
Comes A Time is generally seen as Neil Young cycling back to the more laid back sounds of the hugely successful Harvest, and is therefore one of Young’s gentlest albums by some considerable distance. Actually it’s so laid-back that it’s almost horizontal in places, which can makes for a pleasant, if not exactly engaging, listen. Comes A Time certainly doesn’t have the same concentration of top class songs that made After the Gold Rush the great album that it was. It’s not without great tunes though, as the title track, “Look Out For My Love”, and “Lotta Love” are absolutely among Neil Young’s prettiest numbers. The trouble is, unless every song is a knockout, acoustic Neil can often equate to dreary Neil, and while t,here’s nothing terrible on Comes A Time and there are no obvious lapses in taste, on the whole it’s an album to unwind to rather than one that excites.
After the misery and crushing gravitas of Young’s mid-70s output, where his albums could often sound as if they are just awkward for the sake of being awkward, he probably felt the need for some levity and to take time out to make a nice album that nice people would enjoy. Who knows, maybe they’d even start playing him on the radio again? As a result, Comes A Time strikes me at times as one of Young’s most calculated releases, as if it was purpose-built with sales in mind to appeal to a certain demographic. He’s done it more obviously in the 90s with releases like Harvest Moon (trying to appeal to the fans of his biggest selling album. Obviously), and Sleeps With Angels (a rather odd attempt at connecting with the grunge audience after their figurehead quoted one of his songs in a suicide note), but Comes A Time is notable because it’s pretty much the first time anyone could have levelled the accusation at Neil Young of him possibly compromising his art for sales. Okay, so at the end of the day Comes A Time is not that bad an album, but it’s notable that he would follow it up less than a year later with arguably his most vital album.
Perhaps Comes a Time is the sound of Neil Young recharging his batteries in preparation for a concerted attempt to end the decade in no small amount of style. If you’re a fan of Neil Young’s gentler material, then Comes A Time is one of those albums that you will gravitate towards more frequently, but for those that are fans of his electric rock workouts, it’s simply one that you won’t play all that often, despite it being the release that effectively halted his commercial decline.