Fall 2012 is the "season of the Young" (well Neil Young, anyway), and I seem to be immersed in "things Young", going through his new autobiography in both hardbound book and the audiobook version (read by Keith Carradine). Now comes this Bluray disc of the 2012 feature film/concert documentary "Neil Young Journeys", directed by Jonathan Demme. This is either the third, or fifth (depending on how you define "film") Demme/Young film and - as Demme points out in the bonus features - completely different from the previous projects. And it's wonderful.
The majority of the 89-minutes consists of Young performing during the last two nights of his "Le Noise" solo tour at the historic Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada (where Young was born). But Demme wanted to show more about Young so he rented a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria (Young is a car buff as well as a huge Lionel train fan) and had him start in Omemee, the town in northern Ontario where Young grew up (they moved from Toronto early on), following his brother Bob (in another vintage car), Demme drove with him to Toronto. They visit sites important to Young in his early life and Young tells some funny stories. But, as I said, the 12 songs performed in the concerts (the two concerts were edited together) form the nucleolus of the film. In addition to the songs on his 2011 album, we get two previously unreleased songs and as well as the "hits", including "After The Gold Rush", "My My Hey Hey" and "Ohio" - the latter being embellished by film clips of the Kent State shootings and photos of the four students killed. Demme uses some odd camera techniques and on two songs (including "Down by the River") he uses a tiny camera mounted on the mic stand and we get close-ups of Young's teeth!!! The instrumentation is varied as well with Young on both acoustic and electric guitar as well as piano and organ. The film itself is great!
But, those who have seen the film will want the DVD or BD as well because of the bonuses. There is a short (six-minute) "making of" featurette but the real meat is in the TWO "conversations with Young and Demme", each running about 35 minutes. First comes the Slamdance Festival screening where Demme does most of the talking and it's about filmmaking, though Young does make some comments. The better one is the "conversation" held at the 92nd St. Y in New York where the interviewer (oddly, never identified - even in the credits) moves the discussion to Young's music. We hear his outspoken thoughts about the "quality of sound" and how "MP3s suck". By the way, both "conversations" are "edited" for expletives. Some of the same stories are repeated in both "conversations" but each has its own rewards.
This is not only a must for Young fans but a fine introduction to those who only know Young from his "hits" on the radio.
Note that the bonuses are the same on both the DVD and Bluray.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
on October 16, 2012
Video: 1080p 16x9
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96khz/24 Bit)
Time: 87 minutes
Neil Young Solo And Acoustic (And Electric)
Filmed In May 2011 At Massey Hall In Toronto,ON.
-Neil Young And Jonathan Demme Slamdance Conversation
-Neil Young And Jonathan Demme 92Y Conversation
-Making Of Journeys
-Helpless and Cortez The Killer In The Background During Various Scenes
-Peaceful Valley Blvd
-Down By The River
-Sign Of Love
-Love And War
-After The Gold Rush
-I Believe In You
-My, My, Hey, Hey (Into The Blue)
-You Never Called
-Walk With Me
Movie goes well with Neil's new book, Waging Heavy Peace and Neil Young and Crazy Horse's upcoming album on 10/30/12, Psychedelic Pill.
on March 13, 2014
Note: this review pertains to the DVD edition. Contrary to what other review have said, I believe both the blu-ray and DVD include the same content.
On April 30th, 2011, I had the privilege and joy of seeing Neil Young live in Philadelphia, PA during the final leg of his Le Noise tour. The performances captured in is film, Neil Young Journeys, were recorded at Massey Hall in Ontario, Canada, about two weeks after the Philadelphia show. So it probably needn't be said that I'm fan of the guy and that I was excited to finally get to see this movie today. And I am glad to report that I was not underwhelmed at all. Far from it.
I will say, however, that Journeys will probably be best appreciated by well-established Young-lovers. It's not a conventonal concert film and goes into a little personal territory (although no more, really, than his songwriting),so I really recommend it if you consider yourself to be a devoted fan of the music and the artist, and have a substantial interest in him and immersion in his creative career. It also probably helps if you like the Le Noise album, as it's heavily featured in the song selection. Out of about twelve or fourteen songs, half of the list comes from Le Noise. This is fine with me, because I like Le Noise. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite Young albums of the last ten-fifteen years, but if you don't care for those songs, this movie may not interest you as much. For those who may not be aware, the fact that it's the Le Noise tour means the show features Neil Young singing and playing entirely solo, mostly on the electric guitar (which is unusual), but also with a few numbers on acoustic and keyboards. It's a somewhat novel approach and some people really feel that the songs would benefit from the presence of a rhythm section, but I think it works brilliantly this way. Young is a highly engaging and passionate artist and performer on his own and I'm glad that this is how I got to see him in concert.
The non-musical portions involve Young driving around his home town in North Ontario, pointing out landmarks ans childhood haunts (or at least where they used to be fifty or sixty-odd years ago). This is the part where you need to be a dedicated fan to fully get into it, but I don't feel there's any imbalance in the content or that Neil's documentarian explorations come at the expense of the music. Both segments are interesting to me for different reasons. We meet Neil's brother Bob Young and they share one or two amusing childhood anecdotes. Neil offers some lovely insights while driving through some beautiful country side in the town of Omemee. It's called Journeys--plural--for a reason: there's more than one trip. That's also probably why it's shorter than most concert films (80 minutes) and has fewer songs: it's a hybrid of art forma and ideas. To give you a quantitative sense, it's probably equivalent to a long-ish album's worth of songs (say an hour), supplemented with fifteen to twenty minutes in documentary content. My numbers could be a little off there, but I maintain that to me, it seemed like a 40/60 (or so) split in favor of the music. And I realize that those two back-to-back statements may be mathematically contradictory, but quantitative analysis isn't really to the point in my opinion. I just hope the ideas show through.
Back to qualitative thinking. Musically, one thing I appreciated about Journeys is that it reminded me and reinforced how strong I think the Le Noise material is. Highlights include a barebones acoustic performance of the quiet, sociopolitical-autobiographical rumination Love and War, which is haunting, powerful, and piercing in some of its observations and honest reflections, and the underrated rocker Rumblin'. With some alternate lyrics to the album version, the song has deep aesthetic and spiritual vibes in my opinion. The chorus is beautiful. There's also a remarkable version of the superb Walk with Me, played as an encore. The ending is, for want of a greater word, simply epic. It is amazing and marvelous the effect that Young can achieve just by swinging his Gretsch guitar in front of the amp like a pot of holy water. He can take an electric guitar and create transcendent sound art. Also, the opening of the film draws you in with a performance of the slow-growing acoustic number Peaceful Valley Boulevard, which has a slightly altered emding from the studio version (also included during the show I saw) and seems even stronger than I remember. Fans will also want to keep an eye out for a very memorable performance of Hitchhiker, employing what director Jonathan Demme calls in one of the bonus interviews the cheapest movie lighting effect ever...
A non-Noise treat is After the Goldrush played on pump organ, including a clever lyrical update moving Mother Nature from the 1970s to the 21st century. I love the song and this is a lovely rendering, (For those who may not know, Young seems to love the pump organ; for evidence, see the eccentric version of Like a Hurricane on his Unplugged album.) Neil also plays Leia and You Never Call, two songs that were new when the tour started in 2010 and haven't been placed on an album yet. Afficionados will want it at least for those songs. Leia is a cute, warm-hearted endearing tune for a child--an affectionate and gently vivid character portrait, while You Never Call is eerie and hauntingly sad, with a chilling ominous chord sequence and vocal melody that well-demonstrate Neil's songwriting instinct.
All of the songs are ones performed at the show I saw, although there was more to the full set. My only wish might have been for the inclusion of Tell me Why, which was the second number on my night. It's a beautiful song and a staple of his acoustic shows. Hearing Neil Young play Tell Me Why live elevated me to a state of Nirvana that never fully wore off for the rest of the show. Still, maybe it wasn't quite a fit for this film.
Overall, this is a real treat for Neil Young fans. I love the music and think the movie is very good, but jus be aware it's not a conventional concert movie. Along with the non-musical portions there are unusual camera angles and visual tricks, but if you really like Neil Young's work, you're fairly prepared for weird things that frustratevand transcend conventional barriers. There's rarely anything generic in what he does and this film is no exception. Neil Young and his friends love to take us on journeys. Let's walk with them.
Director Jonathan Demme teams up again with Neil Young and provides another combo documentary/concert film. As a long time Young fan, I'm always interested in his musical direction and his interests in the fidelity of recorded sound. Here he returns to his hometown in northern Ontario as he prepares for a two night gig at Toronto's Massey Hall. Young rents a '56 Ford and follows his brother in a Cadillac making pit stops along memory lane. Neil tells us events in his life growing up all of which is pretty normal stuff. No horror tales in his background.
When the film takes us to the concert venue, Young walks on stage alone, but for his guitar and harmonica, says nothing to the audience and starts playing. He mixes up old songs from the late `60's and brings them to life in a new way. He sources his more recent (2010) material as well, providing a nice mix. Playing alone I was interested in seeing Young thumb that top, thick bass string while still coaxing the melody out of the lower ones. I'm no guitar player but you don't see that too often. My subs were awake and moving.
Demme and Young get a bit carried away with some of the camera tricks, the most offensive being a small camera mounted on the mic stand. This gives us a good view of Neils throat, teeth and nose hair. We even get a bit of spittle on the camera which can be enjoyed through much of the concert. Don't get me wrong, the music is great and Young clearly has deep affection for his roots.
This Blu ray disc looks pretty good, but is fairly routine for the technology. Blacks are deep during the concert footage and the visuals feature excellent texture and clarity. Notice Neil's tattered straw hat. The "road" footage is more limiting given the home movie style of shooting. The transfer comes in 1080p with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and, as hinted at above, is damn fine. At least the concert portion is. Again, the stroll through memory lane is less involving. Here are the concert selections:
1. Peaceful Valley Boulevard
3. Down by the River
4. Sign of Love
6. Love and War
8. After the Gold Rush
9. I Believe in You
10. My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue)
11. You Never Call
13. Walk With Me
Extras include a couple interviews with Young and Demme, a short "making of" doc, a trailer and an assortment of Sony previews.
on June 28, 2013
This is painful to write, because I really wanted to like this, and not just because I bought it. I very much enjoyed the Neil Young Blu-ray Archives Vol. 1 boxed set, and, of course, a lot of his recordings, but, to me, this disk was boring, both cinematically and musically. I guess this means that although I have loved much of Neil's music, I am not enough of a fan to be enthralled by watching him drive around and perform what appears to be an impassioned, if musically uninspired, set.
So, if you are a *real* fan of Neil, I suppose this will satisfy, but for the more casual admirer of Neil's music, I would advise watching and listening to a friend's copy before deciding whether or not to purchase this disk.
If you want to be amazed, purchase, watch, and listen to "Searching for Sugar Man." It's not Neil, but it is cinematically and musically compelling.