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Music Review: Neil Young – Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92

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For years, Neil Young resisted what he’d considered the archetypal singer/songwriter, middle-of-the-road approach he carved on his 1972 album, Harvest. Never one to consent to having his music categorized or dictated upon, he spent much of the next two decades producing albums that satisfied his (at times, eccentric) tendencies rather than anyone else’s expectations. Such is what made his 1992 LP, Harvest Moon—with its folkish, gentrified style and its deliberately allusive title—an unlikely mainstream hit.

Recorded during various stops on the road before Harvest Moon was released, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92 rephrases that album (not in sequence, but in totality) through solo, acoustic performances. Young alternates between guitar and organ—with the occasional harmonica break—deconstructing the songs down to their structural, emotional core.

Truth be told, these renditions don't sound all that different than their comparably low-key Harvest Moon counterparts, but Young redeems them with unflinching, soul-baring conviction and the sort of in-the-moment immediacy that only a live, solo treatment can inspire. So on something like "Harvest Moon" or "Such A Woman," for instance, he's not aimlessly work-shopping their arrangements or reflecting them in radically divergent lights—just more intimate ones.

Craftsmanship matters, of course, and indeed it's present here. Over the arc of this live album, though, sincerity matters—and resonates—most of all. And so as Young cuts to the quick of "War of Man" or the eleven-minute wonder of "Natural Beauty," in particular, he evokes their intrinsic spirits in ways both impassioned and strikingly prescient.

While Young’s similarly styled Unplugged album arrived on the heels of Harvest Moon the following year, it featured only three of its songs, but (and perhaps more importantly) also a band and back-up vocalists. In contrast, Dreamin’ Man Live '92 offers up the songs from Harvest Moon in a context closer to that of which they were borne. In short, this journey through the past is well worth the trip.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Joan Armatrading, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    There’s all sorts of boots online from this time period currently floating around which at the very least you’ve sold me on checking out

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Nice review. I remember seeing Neil do most of this album live acoustic just before it came out. Harvest Moon sounded nice, but War Of Man sounded less full without the backing voices. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to hear how this sounds when I get my copy.

    -Glen

  • http://www.thrasherswheat.org/wheatfield.html thrasher

    Nice Don.

    Linked back to your review.

    Glen let me know when you review. I’ll link from my review also.

  • Mat Brewster

    Will have to check this out. Harvest Moon remains one of my favorite Young records.

  • Dave (in MA)

    It looks like this is from the VH-1 (Center Stage) show that aired prior to the MTV (Unplugged) back then. Unfortunately it seems to only be a partial release; not all of the tracks are included. The version of Like a Hurricane on pipe organ isn’t there.