The long-awaited Neil Young Archives have finally been released to the public with Live at the Fillmore East, which is part of a subsection entitled Performance Series, and is inexplicably, though — considering the artist — not surprisingly designated as Disc 2. There had been so much hype and delay that even Axl Rose was wondering if it would ever happen.
A month after releasing 1969’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, his second solo album and the first backed by Crazy Horse, Young joined up with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. They played Woodstock for their second gig, and recorded Déjà Vu. Their musical talents, combined with the void created by Bob Dylan’s refusal to accept what fans wanted him to be and the break-up of The Beatles, saw them rise as a voice for and stars of the counterculture; however, they broke up soon after their 1970 summer tour, which was captured on 1971’s Four Way Street.
As part of his arrangement to join the CSN, Young was allowed to carry on with his solo career, so during February and March of 1970 he went on tour to support Everybody Knows with Crazy Horse (Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass, Ralph Molina on drums) and producer Jack Nitzsche on electric piano.
Collected from two nights is their brand of electrified county rock straight out of the canyons of Los Angeles, quite possibly the home Young refers to in the album’s title track. “Winterlong” is an unusual love song, finding the couple at place where moving forward together is difficult and the end can be seen. The song was first released on the 1977 best-of compilation Decade, and later covered by The Pixies. Whitten joins Young on the vocals creating good harmonies.
However, the real genius of their joining is revealed on “Down By The River,” a love story with a different ending. The country sound disappears and rock comes to the forefront as the song wonderfully winds into a sprawling 12-minute epic of guitar virtuosity with Young and Whitten exchanging leads on the bridges.
The country elements return on “Wonderin'.” When Young introduces it, he says it’s “from our new album. When we record it.” He laughs, but it would take 13 years for the two-minute song to be released on 1983’s Everybody's Rockin' where it was given a rockabilly treatment.
“Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown” is a Crazy Horse tune sung by Whitten. When Young introduced it, he wasn’t sure what album it would be on since Crazy Horse was recording their own album. He said he was going to play on it but didn’t. The song appeared on their debut and a live version from this tour was on Young's 1975 album Tonight's the Night.
“Cowgirl in the Sand” repeats the brilliant formula of “Down By The River.” It is over 14 minutes and, as much attention as the leads get, it is the rhythm section that is just as worthy of adulation, creating the steady foundation that allows Young and Whitten to soar.
The album showcases a talented quintet during a historic time in their careers. The band’s musicianship and the disc’s fidelity sound fantastic. While I think everyone who hears it will enjoy, I can’t recommend anyone buying it. People have waited decades since this was first hinted at, and all they get is six songs, a mere 43 minutes, for a retail price of $18.98?!
There were two nights recorded in this stand, which included solo acoustic sets by Young. They want you to believe this is all there was, but in a trailer from Young’s website there’s footage from 1997 where it’s stated that multi-track recordings of only five songs survive. So where did number six mysteriously come from?
I’m pretty sure fans would have been okay getting single-track recordings, unreleased material, or demos from the same time period. And all there is for liner notes is a review of the show from Cashbox Magazine. Nothing by Young or anyone else to provide a little history or context about what makes this release special.
In the future, Young can spare me the righteous indignation over artists singing for Pepsi and Coke. At least there’s not a feeling of being ripped off after seeing someone appear in a commercial. To see how releases like this should be handled, see Dylan’s Bootleg series.
Send a message: don’t buy this album; copy it from a friend.