Given that Bob Dylan's 1997 disc, Time Out of Mind, took the best-album Grammy largely because he nearly died prior to its release, Neil Young's Prairie Wind, which arrives under virtually identical circumstances, has "winner" written all over it. Still, the blessings here are mixed. Whereas Dylan's effort was overrated, Young's is spotty, with exceptional tunes sitting alongside material that succumbs to its production.
"The Painter" starts off the set on a terrific note, thanks to a rich melody and Young's lyrical admission that "if you follow every dream/ You might get lost." Standouts such as "Fallin' off the Face of the Earth," "This Old Guitar" and the string-laden "It's a Dream" earn their sentimentality, too. But "Far From Home" comes across like a hokey throwaway, and the title cut, which could have been a bare-bones classic, is undone by inappropriate brass and cloying background vocals.
Such inconsistencies are unlikely to restrain Grammy voters, and Young certainly deserves recognition. (He's been nominated before but never won.) So it's a relief that, for the most part, Wind doesn't blow.