While his fans continue to patiently wait for Archives — the massive ten-DVD boxed set that Neil Young has been working on and promising to deliver for what seems like forever — one of the nicer benefits of his long, arduous search through the vaults is that it has yielded live gems like this one.
As was the case with Live At Fillmore East and Live At Massey Hall before it, this latest installment from the Neil Young Archives series captures a legendary performance for the first time in its entirety. In this particular case, it also comes from a pivotal point in Young's early career, where the artist was in between his gigs with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and was just days away from releasing his first album as a solo artist. At this point, the long, extraordinary career that was still to come was something Neil Young himself probably couldn't have even imagined.
Which is just one of many reasons why Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968 is such a great record. Here we see Neil Young, alone on his acoustic guitar, performing in a completely relaxed atmosphere that sounds as warm at times as your own living room (thanks in no small part to the DVD audio). When the emcee announces Neil Young, he even expresses surprise at the size of the crowd, saying he didn't expect so many people to show up.
For his part, Neil Young shows a rarely seen humorous side in his often-lengthy raps between songs, joking about everything from the length of his hair to his fondness for classic cars. Knowing him as the rock legend that we do now, the effect is a somewhat disarming one that goes far beyond mere intimacy. It's quite frankly a little weird to see an artist of Neil Young's stature connecting with an audience this completely. Which is what makes Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968 stand out from any live Neil Young album you will ever hear.