It is amazing to me how many times record companies and/or the artists themselves manage to screw up a "greatest hits" compilation. Too often are such compilations done to represent the entire career of the artist, regardless whether the artist's biggest hits stem from throughout that career. The "Elton John Greatest Hits 1970-2002" is a good example of that: too many latter day non-greatest hits take up space instead of overlooked real greatest hits.
Neil Young's "Greatest Hits" (16 tracks, 77 min.) thankfully is just that: his truly greatest hits, regardless of how recent or not so recent they are. This results then in a compilation on which only the last 2 songs are are post-1979 (1989's "Rockin' in the Free Workd" and 1992's "Harvest Moon"). In other words, 14 of the 16 songs on here are from 1969-1979. Although one can always argue whether this or that song should've been on here (I'd say that "Comes a Time" belongs on here), the truth is that, for the CASUAL Neil Young fan (if there is such a thing), this "Greatest Hits" CD truly represents his best known songs.
For the not-so-casual Neil Young fan, beware: there is significant overlap between this "Greatest Hits" and the 1977 "Decade" compilation: 10 of the 16 songs on "Greatest Hits" are also found on "Decade". That said, kudos for the audio quality of this CD, which sounds remarkedly better than the "Decade" compilation. "Neil Young Greatest Hits" is an essential CD for any music fan.
on December 22, 2004
Some of these reviewers are just totally missing the point of this release. Yes, these are the same songs we've all heard before and maybe there's no need to go out and buy them again. Well guess what? YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY IT! Nobody's putting a gun to your head. If you feel that this exercise in career overview cheapens Young's musical achievements, shut yourself in a room and listen to your treasured vinyl copies of "Tonight's The Night" or "On The Beach" or whatever. This release is not for you. It's for casual fans or people who haven't heard any of this music and are curious about checking out some of Neil's songs without having to immediately delve into his extensive back catalogue. I know it's hard for you people to believe that such listeners exist but they are out there. Of course it's better to listen to the albums but a lot of people just don't care enough to bother. This is all they need and want. But what about Decade?? Isn't that a better buy because it is a double CD? Not necessarily. This release has two advantages over Decade:
1) If you are a casual fan, maybe you don't want a whole double CD of songs. Maybe you just want a single disc with most of the major songs covered.
2) The songs on here have been digitally remastered. This is the reason I bought this CD, despite the fact that I own a lot of Neil's albums already. Because, if you haven't noticed, Young's catalogue (along with the Beatles) is one of the most neglected in popular music. We now have SACD's for Dylan and the Stones but you still can't get a basic remastered copy of, say, Tonight's the Night and After the Goldrush. So until Neil or his label get their acts together and get some reissues happening (On the Beach was a good start but we want the lot thanks), this is the best that these songs are going to sound on CD.
Cries of "sell-out" or accusations that Neil is somehow ripping off his fans or degrading his mighty catalogue by releasing this are ridiculous and totally unwarranted. Every great artist should have a single-disc career overview - it is after all, the best way to give people a taste and maybe convert new fans. I think it's great that people might buy this, hear the greatness of songs like "Cinnamon Girl" and "The Needle and The Damage Done" and then be inspired to check out the actual albums.
Apart from all this, this has been very well compiled. Sure, everyone will have favourites missing - hell, I'd love to hear Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown on here, but we all know it was never going to happen! All of the major high points of Neil's career are covered here - while the disc is playing, it really doesn't feel like anything is missing, and that is a testament to the compilers. All in all, it's a perfect introduction for new listeners and a nice summary for fans (and don't forget it's remastered!)
on December 11, 2004
Neil Young - Greatest Hits
Most of the reviewers feel the same way that I do, great choices, but some truly great songs missing. So much for the first one-disc compilation of this astonishingly prolific musician. As any fan of Neil Young knows, the only constant in Young's work is to expect sudden shifts in current and a sharp turn of the rudder. Still though, I think that there are reasons to buy this disk. First of all, Greatest Hits might be ideal for the fan who doesn't know where to start. But, even then I'd probably steer them toward "Decade", which makes both musical and chronological sense and offers a more cohesive flow, even if it ends much earlier then this CD. There isn't much on the DVD-Video in terms of content. There are only two tracks with videos, "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Harvest Moon". Each track has the option for viewing the lyrics, a still photo, & the orginal album track listing or title, but not a whole lot more! So don't buy the DVD version if you are expecting a lot of different content.
There is another reason for even the most ardent fan to consider buying this collection. Sound. The sound quality of this CD easily surpasses every version of these songs that you have ever heard. Painstakingly remastered, for both conventional Audio CD, and available with a companion DVD-Video version of each track, this set hints at what is to be a complete remastering of the entire Young catalog. For notes on the precise equipment used for the process, just visit Young's ([...]) website, which will force you to figure out how to find the proper link.. hint, think license plate.
What is interesting about this remastering is what they didn't do. Namely they didn't try too hard to clean up noise and other artifacts. This isn't Pro-Tools on parade. While these versions offer that sense of sitting in the studio without anything between you and the musicians, this isn't a sterile, or overly noise-reduced remastering. The first several tracks have a ton of noise, some of which I imagine to be old-fashioned, pre-Dolby tape noise, and some of the noise seems to be just the noise of the amplifiers, pickups, and other bits. So.. this is a really accurate restoration, not a scrubbed clean and modernized version. So, while I might have enjoyed a version with a bit less noise, and a bit of extra punch added to the dynamic range, it is a damn wonderful job, even if a bit odd in the modern climate of making 30 year old recordings sound like they were recorded yesterday. But on this, it's as if someone pulled the cotton out of your ears. The audio stage is beautiful, warm, and transparent. The bass is solid and the guitar solos cut through the air with tact sharp precision.
The DVD-Video version is another thing altogether. From reading various reviews on Amazon, it seems that most folks don't seem to understand exactly what DVD-Audio (or SACD for that matter!) is, and what type of equipment is required to play it back. Simply put, those two formats are an attempt to create an "audiophile" digital music format, utilizing different technologies and approaches, for pretty much the same aural experience, which is a recording and mastering at a much higher bit rate, and resolution. In order to actually hear this, you need a player that is equipped for DVD-Audio playback, which only a handful of players can actually do. Although there are some low cost models that are surprisingly good, starting with the Pioneer DV-578-A, which is the lowest cost "universal" player that I know of. "Universal" players are capable of playing all the normal formats, but also DVD-Audio and SACD. However, all high bit players require you to use their 6 analog outputs to your "Multi-Channel" inputs on your receiver, and every model I've seen use varying, and mostly lousy approaches to how the Bass signal is managed, hence the term "bass management" used in their specs.
Ok, so is it worth it spend the extra bucks for the DVD-Video version? If you have a DVD compatible player, I think it is. The difference is subtle, and you must have some seriously good equipment to really hear the difference, but if you do, then the sense of time-travel these tracks offer is wonderful and enlightening. And of course there are the visuals. However, for a real Neil Young fan, at least for this one, the track selections are a bit maddening. And I think that to really experience Young's work in high-resolution sound, try out the amazing 5.1 DVD-Audio and Surround Sound version of "Harvest", which is simply breathtaking. And the interview with Young on the disc is great. It will play on any DVD player, and with a player capable of DVD-A, you can hear the high-resolution version. Even though this unfortunately isn't a DVD-Audio release, which in itself is a strange decision, at least on my system it has a different sound quality then the CD version. Probably due in part to the difference in using the analog Multi-Channel outputs vs. the digital coax output on my player.
As for me, I'm looking forward to "Decade" and some of the earlier catalog releases to be reissued with the new remastering. Ironically, one thing that the new releases point out, is that the original CD releases of Young's work were very respectably mastered in the first place! Remember that the choices made here, are incredibly cognizant. Just as Young's recent Greendale movie was low tech in feel and technology (8mm movie film!) to get it's story across, the soundtrack was recorded with among the highest audio resolution quality technology available anywhere on the planet! So, even the decision to release this CD, with it's somewhat strange track listing, it's painstakingly remastered audio, and a normal DVD-Video is as much a technological choice, as it is an artistic choice. Young, obviously, is in control, and letting us know it. So, until the rest of his catalog is released, pick this up, make sure you have something decent to listen to it on, and crank it up!
on December 14, 2004
To Faulkner's Ghost: I should have been clearer, my Denon HDCD player is also a DVD-A/DVD-V player. Remember the CD is a HDCD, and the DVD is a DVD-V.
The DVD disc included here is just that: a DVD, or more specifically a DVD-V (V for video, the most common type of DVD).
Most DVD-A releases are actually hybrids, part DVD-A and part DVD-V. Manufacturers use the DVD-V part to be able to include extras like interviews and music videos. Also by duplicating the DVD-A musical programming in the DVD-V portion (as in the DVD-A of HARVEST), the disc can be bought and played by anybody with any DVD player (albeit at a lower resolution than true DVD-A). The resolution breakdown for stereo playback is as follows for the different mediums:
CD: 16 bits x 44.1 khz
HDCD: 20 bits x 44.1 khz (if played in a HDCD player)
DVD-V: 24 bits x 96 khz (this is what this DVD plays at)
DVD-A: 24 bits x 192 khz
With material as old as this, it probably won't make much audible difference, but I still got a better, punchier bass response with the HDCD (maybe because it is more compressed).
Another way to tell DVD-A from DVD-V playback: If you are playing a true DVD-A track, during playback, the video output can only be still pictures, not moving action video. As you probably know by now, when you play this DVD, you get the full motion video of the LPs playing, ergo, again no DVD-A.
To be fair, this DVD does not claim to be a DVD-A. The opening video shot says that it is a "DVD Stereo" disc, which is their coy way of not saying that it is not a DVD-A, unlike other NY releases which are true DVD-A.
on April 1, 2006
Ok, let's face it. To get a true, die-hard fan's compendium of the career of Neil Young, you'd probably need to make it a 5-disc set. But that's not what this is. It's a great collection of some great tunes. No, it's not complete, but if you're not really familiar to the music of Neil Young, then it's perfect for you. If you already know his catalog back-to-front, then you've probably got this music already anyways, so it's all good.
One more thing: If you've got a turntable, I highly recommend the vinyl LP edition. It's printed on 200g vinyl, very high quality, and comes with a bonus 7" featuring "Sugar Mountain" and "The Loner." The sound quality of the vinyl just blows the CD out of the water.