Neil Young finds love, and strings, at 68

 Neil Young finds love, and strings, at 68
Musician Neil Young attends his opening night reception for "Special Deluxe" Art Exhibition at Robert Berman Gallery on November 3, 2014 in Santa Monica, California.

NEW YORK - "Who's gonna stand up and save the Earth?" Neil Young sings twice on his new album, once to the songwriter's familiar guitar and also with a chorus and orchestra.

One answer, of course, is that Young himself will stand up. But the veteran protest singer also has plenty more on his mind on "Storytone," not least of which are his romantic travails.

"Storytone" is the second album by the prolific Canadian singer this year and sprawls in diverse directions, with Young performing with a choir, two large orchestras and a jazz-driven big band.

A deluxe version of his 35th album features solo versions of songs, including "Who's Gonna Stand Up?", that fall more into the classic Young repertoire of guitar-driven folk-rock.

Young turns to the orchestra as his thoughts shift to matters of the heart, with the singer -- who turns 69 next week -- excited to have found love again and at times bristling at judgment from outsiders.

"So many people don't understand what it's like to be me," he sings to a solo piano, with orchestral arrangements filling the gaps between verses. "But I'm not different from anyone else / I'm glad I found you."

The singer this year filed for divorce from Pegi Young, his wife of 36 years and musical collaborator.

Pegi was presumed to be the subject of some of his most memorable love songs in the past including 1992's "Such a Woman," in which he sang, "Our love will live until the end of all time."

Since the divorce, gossip media have linked Young to actress and fellow environmental activist Daryl Hannah. The relationship has played out increasingly in the public eye, with Young's former bandmate David Crosby chastising Young over the divorce.

Young's warbling voice stretches its range as he explains his sentiments on "Glimmer," singing to almost operatic strings, "Tough love can leave you almost alone / But new love brings back everything to you."

Finding 'lasting value' in life

Deeply personal songs are nothing new for Young.

His first album this year, a collection of covers called "A Letter Home," opens with a spoken-word tribute to his late mother.

But he also retains his political edge on "Storytone," with strident calls to fight the "big machine" to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and end fracking, the deep-drilling for shale gas.

"Take down the dams, stand up to oil / Protect the plants, and renew the soil," Young sings.

Young, explaining his activism, said that he believed that corporations had quashed ordinary Americans' choices on the environment. He pointed to Germany's embrace of renewable energies as an example of the possibilities.

"What happened to America leading the world? I think corporations took over America and I don't think they want to stop doing what they're doing," Young, who retains his Canadian citizenship but is a longtime California resident, said in an interview carried on US public television.

Young has no plans for retirement. Along with his environmental activism, he is soon releasing a second book, "Super Deluxe," about his fascination with cars and is developing the service Pono, which aims to bring high-quality audio to downloading.

"I'm just doing the things that I think I should do. A lot of what I do now is based on trying to get some lasting value out of the rest of my life and the notoriety that I've managed to get," he said in the interview.

"I don't want to just waste it all on a downhill slope of People magazine covers and stuff."

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