The Trans album from 1982 came as a chock, the fans had to accept that Neil Young was singing in a vocoder on some of the tracks. By no surprise, Trans is far from Young's most appreciated album. It was mainly produced by David Briggs.
1. Little Thing Called Love
2. Computer Age
3. We R in Control
4. Transformer Man
5. Computer Cowboy (a.k.a. Syscrusher)
6. Hold On to Your Love
7. Sample and Hold
8. Mr. Soul
9. Like an Inca
In 1981, Neil Young had left Reprise Records after many years of collaboration. The company wasn’t pleased after the commercial failure with Re-ac-tor. Irritated by the conflict Neil Young and his manager Elliot Roberts decided to leave the company. Young would sign a contract with Geffen Records and Trans was the first album on the new label.
The radical shift in music expression made on Trans can be compared with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. But a big difference was that Davis did it to reach a mass audience and it is very hard to believe that it was Young’s intention with Trans.
The continued use of a Synclavier and a vocoder pleased neither the audience nor the critics. A review in Rolling Stone made by Parke Puterbaugh was however positive. He didn’t think that Young has gone too far and he celebrated the mix of traditional tunes (some of the songs were recorded in an earlier session in Hawaii) and the new sound. Neil Young himself said later that he rather should have limited the album to the vocoder songs, that the other stuff was misplaced in the context.
Trans is one of my highest moments. Forget the acoustic things on it, get rid of those, get those out. Disregard everything except that computer thing.
The quote is from the book Shakey and it's easy to agree that a song like "Little Thing Called Love", for example, feels misplaced together with songs like "Computer Age" and "We R in Control".