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Music Review: Neil Young Archives Series: Live at Massey Hall

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So I've got to be honest and say that at this point I am a little underwhelmed by this.

Don't get me wrong here. I am as big a Neil Young fan as you will find anywhere. And I am as happy as a clam in shit to see the so-called "Archives Series" finally coming somewhat to light.

I guess the problem is, that I just expected more.

When last years Live At The Fillmore East 1970 deal with Crazy Horse came out, I was hoping for some truly radical, never before seen DVD footage. When I didn't get that, I was more than happy to settle for the amazing live versions (and they really are amazing) of "Cowgirl In The Sand" and "Down By The River" on that CD.

But you've just got to understand something here. As pretty much a life long Neil Young fan, I've been waiting for these "Archives" tapes to finally surface for something like twenty five years. So now, here they finally are. And what is really new? You tell me.

The story here is Neil did an acoustic show at Massey Hall in Toronto in 1970, debuting much of the material that would eventually show up on Harvest. The set that night was so good that Neil's producer implored him to put out this concert, rather than the album which eventually became Harvest.

The thing is Neil did eventually put out the absolutely classic album Harvest. True enough, many of the songs heard here from that album were played for the very first time. Equally true is the fact that they sound damned good here. As do the acoustic versions of songs like "Cowgirl In The Sand" and "Down By The River".

This is a great Neil Young show. No doubt about it.

But as someone who has salivated for these "archives" for the twenty years or so they have been rumored, personally I'm still waiting for something new.

This is without a doubt an awesome Neil Young acoustic show. I'm just not entirely sure that the twenty something year wait for stuff like this lives entirely up to the hype. Hopefully, the really good shit is yet to come in the form of the Big box coming this fall.

Do ya hear me Neil?

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Glen,
    Better late than never. I really think these Performance Series are really a tease for the big Archives itself. And I don’t think that will disappoint.

  • Exactly Thrasher. Listen, if I sound overly critical here I really have to apologize–because taken on it’s own merits, this is a great accoustic Neil Young live album. It’s just that as a huge fan of Neil’s (as you are too of course), so far these long hoped for “Archives” releases are coming up a little short in the way of delivering the never before heard kind of stuff I’d hoped for.

    Up to this point, everything seems to be more or less serving as a kind of “tease” for the boxed set coming this fall.

    Maybe that box will end up being the “grail” we hardcore Neil Young fans have so waited for.

    Thanx for the comment Thrasher (good to hear from you again too by the way).


  • Glen – remember that soundtrack album Neil put out – I think it was called Journey Through the Past. Is there any word if any of that will ever see the light of day on CD? There were some classic Buffalo Springfield cuts (been a long time – I had it on long lost 8 track!. Stills’ singing lead on Mr. Soul was the gem if memory serves me. Or did that make the Buffalo Springfield box? There were some rehearsal takes of Neil’s HArvest album too, I think.

  • JC,

    Funny you should bring up Journey Through The Past, as that song actually shows up on this CD (4th track in). I haven’t heard anything about a reissue of the soundtrack album, although I know Neil fans have long clamoured for it (along with “Time Fades Away”). I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of that stuff shows up on the “Archives” box coming out this fall though.

    Great question though Mr. Mosquito. I just wish I had a better answer.


  • james

    just watch this: …and you’ll be satisfied, I guess. 😉

  • Nick Danger

    Anything that is so long anticipated seldom can make all of people happy all of the time. Me, I just would just like a CD release of “Time Fades Away” and I’d be doing backflips. That said, NY’s archives are rumored to be so prolific that It likely to be a long drawn out tourtured release schedule, for both old and new tunes alike. Think about it, when was the last time NY did something predictable. As a business person, which he happens to be and a very successful one at that, its about leaving the audience wanting for more, well, he’s done that his whole career.

    This is likely a marathon vs. a sprint to release all this material. I am happy to take whatever I can get. Now some archive video would be a welcome addition in long form…..I’d like to see some NY&CH concerts from the 60’s-70’s-80’s in full length, for no other reason but to show my kids what their Dad used to go see back in the day.

  • Mark

    I am hoping that some of the live tapes from Time Fades/Tonights the Night and On the beach surface.

  • Chris

    personally i am gettin fed up with waiting for archives! how long have we been waiting? why is he doing this to us? will we ever see it released? some of us are going to die before hearing it! but here’s hoping that we get it this year. Chris.