Comes a Time
Released: October 1978
Chart Peak: #7
Weeks Charted: 30
Certified Gold: 11/21/78
Comes a Time will pass in the rock environment, I suppose, for Neil Young's country album. It is his simplest, most acoustic, and best produced disc since Harvest. It is not melodramatic and fancy like Harvest, however, but down to earth and direct. It is also rather laid-back, not in a country way, but in a way having to do with a specific mood. He doesn't exactly set the tone for it with the line in the first song that goes, "I feel like going back to where there's no place to stay," but he comes close. So the one thing it could use is a little more energy. The place where it has this energy is in a surprisingly good rendition of Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds." Young's roots are partly in Tyson, and this is a country album in the sense that most Canadian albums are a bit country.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 2/79.
Backed primarily by the Crazy Horse guitar, bass, drum and sax lineup, Young focuses on his acoustic capabilities in this introspective 10-cut LP. The exceptional vocal harmonies by Nicolette Larson, plus acoustic and electric guitar and string flourishes by a small army of musicians including J.J. Cale, lend a richness in production not often present in Young's albums, excepting perhaps Harvest. Young wrote all tunes but "Four Strong Winds," the moving closing cut on side two by Ian Tyson. Best cuts: "Goin' Back," "Comes A Time," "Look Out For My Love," "Human Highway," "Motorcycle Mama."
- Billboard, 1978.
In which the old folkie seeks out his real roots, in folkiedom. Not only is this almost always quiet, usually acoustic and drumless, but it finishes off which a chestnut from the songbook of Ian and Sylvia -- not just folkies, but Canadian folkies. Conceptually and musically, it's a tour de force. Occasionally you do wonder why this thirty-two-year-old hasn't learned more about Long-Term Relationships, but the spare, good-natured assurance of the singing and playing deepens the more egregious homilies and transforms good sense into wisdom. The melodies don't hurt, either -- Young hasn't put together so many winners since After the Gold Rush. Now that it's been done right, maybe all those other guys will hang up their Martins and enroll in bartending school. A
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Young, effectively immersed in his country/folk mode, with a little help from Crazy Horse and some less-than-successful harmony vocals from Nicolette Larson. Replete with pleasant melodies, quietly intense performances, and hard-bitten homilies about love's losses, Comes a Time has an easy, loping, country tinged listenability, even if it lacks any really great Young compositions ("Goin' Back" gets close). It closes with a strong cover of Ian Tyson's classic "Four Strong Winds" -- after all roots is roots. The sound quality is equivalent to that of a clean LP. B+
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
From the reflective opener "Goin' Back," to the airy remake of Ian & Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds," Comes a Time is Young's most delicately (and oddly) atmospheric album. The album's dreamy country-folk music frames Young's homey discourses on "Peace of Mind," the "Field of Opportunity," and the "Human Highway." The collective effect is a lulling optimism, even when his mind at times seems to be bangin' on one cylinder -- merely dishing out alien-sounding toss-offs clothed in plain-speak. Overall, Comes a Time is a strangely entrancing high point in Young's willfully erratic career. * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Quiet and sweetly melodic, Neil Young's Comes a Time felt like folly in punk-drunk 1978 but has since become one of his most timeless and easy-to-love works, a brief but immaculate CD. It's a magic fluke in other ways. Although Comes a Time was recorded at six studios with four producers and dozens of players, the simple, unified sound suggests Young strumming his guitar in a room with just a couple of other musicians. The song "Lotta Love," for example, is as minimal as the Ramones. The dream-world reverie "Goin' Back" makes no literal sense but announces that Young feels shook up and restless and has returned to the oasis of folk music.
"Look Out for My Love" takes the weariest theme of Seventies rock -- the on-the-road lament -- and makes it a whisper of menace. "Motorcycle Mama" has to be the most amiable heroin tune ever done ("Motorcycle Mama, won't you lay your big spike down/Always get in trouble when you bring it around") and a fine showcase for the late singer Nicolette Larson. Young nods to his roots in several ways with "Four Strong Winds," originally by the Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia and inspired by Bob Dylan. Like most of Comes a Time, the song is about taking shelter from troubles and going out to face them again. Although Young has a hard time nowadays recapturing such poise, Comes a Time itself provides a steady haven in dark times, which are usually on the way. * * * * *
- Milo Miles, Rolling Stone, 1/23/03.
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