Live at Massey Hall
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From the Neil Young performance series archives Available for the first time The acclaimed 1971 solo acoustic Massey Hall performance Featuring 17 tracks-over one hour of music
Special edition CD + DVD combo-pak DVD includes 17 live songs from the Massey Hall concert; hi-res stereo audio BECAUSE SOUND MATTERS
"This is the album that should have come out between After the Gold Rush and Harvest. David Briggs, my producer, was adamant that this should be the record, but I was very excited about the takes we got on Harvest and wanted Harvest out. David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why. Love you, David."-NY
"I'm gonna sing mostly new songs tonight," Neil Young tells the rapt Massey Hall audience, "...I've written so many new ones that I can't think of anything else to do with them other than sing 'em." He steps to the mic unadorned, distant from CSNY's rippled harmonies or Crazy Horse's yowl, hypnotically nailing 17 tracks on this unreleased 1971 solo set. You hear him tower at vocal heights on the chorus for "Old Man" (then a debuted, brand-new song) and name-check Canada on "Journey to the Past" and North Ontario on "Helpless," much to the Toronto crowd's delight. The sound is impeccable, and the closeness to Young in this spare setting exhilarates--especially his vocal quavering in the high registers, his intricate guitar work, and an overall vibe that exceeds description. And the DVD: Here you catch Young in tightly framed, starkly-lit shots, flourishing in the early years of an unparalleled rock career. Not only that, you get commentary from 1997, a rare window on how Young thinks, how he speaks, his humor. --Andrew Bartlett
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The DVD is another story. Those who are diehard Neil Young fans have probably seen the film footage used to represent this concert in the DVD as being taken from a Dutch documentary of Neil performing in Stratford Conn. about a week after the Massey Hall show in Toronto. The DVD footage is identical to clips that have appeared on the bootleg market of the Stratford show. Interesting enough, the songs without a film performance on the DVD (Helpless, Bad Fog Of Loneliness, I Am A Child) were songs not played in Stratford and therefore no film version exists that would enable those performances to appear on the DVD. Also none of the banter between songs is shown in visual form on the DVD either. There are several other inconsistencies with the DVD that lend credence to the fact that the footage is not from the actual Massey Hall show. One instance is when Neil is speaking to the crowd in the middle of his performance of "Dance,Dance,Dance". About half way through the song he tells the crowd to "make some noise" while the camera shows his face while strumming the chords but yet he cannot be seen speaking/mouthing the words on the film. There are other similar instances throughout the DVD.
The film footage is interesting and a must see for any Neil fan but it is not the actual concert film. I liken it to a hypothetical purchasing of a similar CD/DVD collection of, lets say for example, "The Beatles At Candlestick Park 1966" with the audio of the Candlestick Park show used over film footage of the Beatles performing in Cincinnati on the DVD. All Beatle fans know that would not be acceptable. I write this to make people aware that you are not getting the actual footage of Massey Hall and there is no mention that the film is from the Stratford concert. While this takes nothing away from the actual CD performance it does bother me a bit to get something like this from Neil who is pretty honest and upfront about things. It is a bit misleding IMO.
The set starts off light, with the tossed-off "On the Way Home." I'm not surprised that this wasn't released; it's not bad, but it's not very good either. Then follow "Tell Me Why," "Old Man," "Journey Through the Past"... and a knockout solo version of "Helpless." Emotionally, it's just downhill from there: every song gets a little darker and more helpless than the last. You can really feel the Doom Trilogy years stretching out before him. It's compelling listening!
The "suite" is interesting - it seems as if "Heart of Gold" started out as the middle-eight of "A Man Needs a Maid." If he'd kept it that way, he'd never have had his only #1 hit. "Maid" and "There's a World" both fare much better for the lack of orchestral overdub bombast that sunk the album versions.
"Bad Fog of Loneliness" starts off a little perfunctory, but veers darker and better. It's nice to have it out. The acoustic versions of "Down by the River," "Cowgirl in the Sand," and "Ohio" are really amazing, as good as the full-band versions in their way. "Dance Dance Dance" lightens the mood at the end of the encore. It's slight, but very effective in context.
My only complaint is that tracks begin with the stage banter relating to them, so you have to sit through two minutes of chatter before he starts singing. I'm glad it's there, but I'm going to have to make a music-only edit for normal listening. I like having the stage banter, but it would be best to have it on a separate track from the song, I think. A very minor complaint in any case.
The DVD has great bonus material - song lyric manuscripts, Johnny Cash Show videos, etc. - but the concert video itself isn't very good. You see much more footage of a running reel-to-reel tape recorder than of Young. The cameraman obviously has no idea what he's doing. When you do see Young, he looks freakish. (Partly due to his posture - he had a crushed vertebra during the tour and was wearing a back brace.) It's a standard Shakey lo-fi job.