To say that Neil Young’s latest release – and probably his last on the Reprise label – is the greatest greatest hits package ever released might be your typical reviewer hype … or a fan’s hagiographic overkill.
But say what you will about Young’s Greatest Hits, it undoubtably will cement his status in the singer-songwriter Hall of Fame. The disc’s first 11 cuts are — to you use the most cliched reviewer phrase of all time — classic. But really. Look at these titles that we’ve all heard 100’s of times:
1. Down By The River
2. Cowgirl In The Sand
3. Cinnamon Girl
5. After The Gold Rush
6. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
7. Southern Man
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Old Man
All of these songs were written and recorded during the stunning period between January 17, 1969 and February 8, 1971. This amazingly prolific two year period captures Young at the height of his creative genius. And this is a guy that wrote both “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” on the same day!
Has any artist during such a short period produced such an enduring impact?
Fans might quibble with what is and is not included. The CD jacket states that the 16 song selection is “Based on original record sales, airplay, and known download history.” Chronologically presented, it really is hard to argue with the selection of these essential Young songs from his canon representing 9 albums over a 20 year period.
While nothing from the Ditch Trilogy period (‘Time Fades Away’, ‘On The Beach’ and ‘Tonight’s The Night’) is represented, the selection clearly favors Young’s earlier work. Only two songs are post-1978: Rockin’ In The Free World (1989) and Harvest Moon (1991). This is mainly due to the fact that this a Reprise release and could not include any Geffen label cuts. All but four of these songs are available on the three disc Decade, the Godfather of Greatest Hits packages.
The DVD-stereo sound does seem to be improvement over the conventional CD format, although only listening on a state art sound system can one expect to hear the differences. At the opening of the bonus DVD, Neil writes of the experience as “high resolution listening”. Riding around town with the CD playing in the car stereo really doesn’t do justice to the DVD-stereo mix. But hey, when else are you going to be listening? “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” from Rust Never Sleeps is so pristinely grungey that Neil’s guitar sounds like power lines snapping from overload.
The bonus DVD is really astounding in a number of respects. Each song is featured with video of a turntable playing the song in real-time! Spin the black circle, Neil.
So is the Greatest Hits disc something for the die-hard fans? A Thrasher’s Wheat Neil Poll on the Greatest Hits package indicates that fans are still holding out for the long awaited and ever delayed Neil Young Archives Box Set. But with the audio upgrade and bonus video, maybe so? For the casual fan or as an introduction to the vast body of Neil’s work? Definitely.
“Nobody’s greatest are any greater.”
Originally published on Thrasher’s Wheat. See review for photos from DVD.
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