The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Neil Young

Furay’s little bit of magic

by on Aug.30, 2009, under Music

I expected to see a good performance from Richie Furay Friday night at Stage One in Fairfield, but I was taken back by just how good.

richie-furay-live-2-small1With a five-piece band that includes multi-instrumentalist Scott Sellen and Furay’s daughter Jesse Lynch, Furay played a set that traveled from his past to the present, playing many songs that helped lay down the country-rock tradition, leaning heavily on rock, and are rarely played by any band today.

This is not just an aging musician running through songs with which he is associated. This is an extraordinary band.

When the opening song started with drummer Alan Lemke laying down a beat on his tom toms, I asked myself is that what I think it is? It was. This little band was playing Crazy Eyes, a Poco epic from the album of the same name from 1973. And the arrangement didn’t lack one bit.

Furay’s voice was full, clear and able to scale the heights he has always been known for on a song that demands it from the start. Every time I looked to the left of the stage Sellen was playing a different instrument. First electric piano, then banjo, then lap steel guitar and electric guitar. (continue reading…)

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Neil Young’s North Country

by on Jul.30, 2009, under Music

The final music disc in Neil Young’s DVD Archive Box Set deals with the time surrounding the release of Harvest, his most successful album commercially. This is the record that inspired Young’s famous — or perhaps infamous — quote after the record’s success about him deciding to musically stay in the middle of the road or drive into a ditch.

neil-young-north-countryBy Young’s account he drove into the ditch and stayed away from the mainstream. That might be a little overstated. He’s had artistic and commercial successes since during his long and buoyant career and some were planted firmly in the mainstream.

But it is arguable if Harvest was really a mainstream record per se. It was if you’re only measure is commercial success. But in any era or in fact any time frame, Harvest is a perfect album at a perfect time, a synthesis of accessible songs combined with artistically uncompromising ones, ranging from acoustic and electric country-rock to hard rocking fare that struck at the right moment of the singer-songwriter era of the early 1970s.

The disc includes songs from Harvest, inexplicably not all of them, and a bit more musically. It also contains the most video content of the entire set — at least in my searching — either hidden on the Timeline or tucked neatly under the main menu of songs in the Video Log. And it’s all very interesting and fascinating. (continue reading…)

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Neil and Macca

by on Jul.02, 2009, under Music

Speaking of The Beatles. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video below, which is a combination of the sublime and the surreal.

Paul McCartney joined Neil Young onstage at his concert in Hyde Park, London, a few days ago for Young’s closing number, The Beatles’ A Day In The Life. McCartney joins in mid-song to pick up the singing on the bit he wrote of The Beatles classic from Sgt. Pepper’s, a song with which Young evidently has been closing recent shows.

The sometimes ragged collaboration finishes with Young literally ripping the strings off his Les Paul and then joining Macca at the vibraphone for a little one-note finale or something like that.

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Neil Young Archives: The Concerts

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Music

Three live performances are included in the Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 box set, two of which were actually released in 2008. Of course, that doesn’t include live video footage you can find in hidden tracks and the video log, usually tucked underneath track listing screens, throughout the set.

neil-young-riverboatIf you pre-ordered the set, you also received another previously released concert on DVD/CD, Sugar Mountain Live At the Canterbury House 1968, which I wrote about back in December in this post. Also in that piece, I mentioned a bit about one of the other discs, Live At Massey Hall 1971, which I picked up last year. Live At The Fillmore East 1970 with Crazy Horse and Live At The Riverboat 1969 are the other two performances in the set.

Suffice to say Massey Hall is Young’s best overall performance of these discs. He appears to have fully realized himself as a solo performer by this time despite touring with a rather serious back injury and playing in a brace. But he had found the perfect balance between polished performer and humorous and engaging stage personality.

As is revealed in an Archives meeting elsewhere in the set, he intended to release a live acoustic album from this tour at the time but it was ditched when sessions for the Harvest album began in February 1971. (continue reading…)

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Stripped down Crosby, Stills & Nash

by on Jun.17, 2009, under Music

Usually when demos make up an album or are included as bonus tracks, you can often expect rough sonics, less than perfect performances and songwriting that is evolving. On Crosby, Stills & Nash’s recently released Demos, produced by Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein, that’s not the case.

csn-demosThe sound is pristine, the performances near flawless and the songs are fully formed in almost every instance. It’s an easy and pleasant listen. What it lacks is a hint at how most of these tunes changed from the early demo stage to the finished product.

All but one are simply acoustic versions of the songs with basically few changes from the end result. One track by Crosby, Music Is Love from his solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name, is actually the mono log tape of the master take lacking only overdubs.

That’s not to say Demos is of no interest, just not on the level of understanding how the songs came about and evolved.

Each musician has four tracks, with Neil Young contributing to Music Is Love, but the standouts are all by Stephen Stills, who at the time — late ’60s to early ’70s — had to be considered one of the great creative forces in rock. He certainly was the acknowledged leader of CSN and taking into account his output in Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y and his first two solo albums it begs the question: Whatever happened to Stills? But more on that later. (continue reading…)

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Neil Young’s Archive: Buffalo Springfield

by on Jun.10, 2009, under Music

In addition to the three Topanga discs and Early Years (1963-65), I’ve been listening to the Buffalo Springfield disc quite a bit from Neil’s Young’s recently released Archives Box Set.

ny-archive-springfield-coverDisc 1 in the 10-disc set, which I have in DVD format, is titled Early Years (1966-68) and is dedicated to the mid-to-late ’60s group that many of its fans lament over for its short tenure on the rock scene, about two years.

The Springfield were truly one of the great rock groups of the ’60s, but let’s face it, it had too many creative forces within, if that’s possible: namely Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Young. It made for a powerful combination — but only for a while.

The Springfield made two memorable albums, their self-titled debut and Buffalo Springfield Again, during which the group started to fracture. As Young says in a radio interview included on the disc, the third record Last Time Around was not a Buffalo Springfield album at all. It does contain two notable songs from Young, I Am A Child and On The Way Home, which he doesn’t sing lead on, but it’s disjointed.

It’s kind of amusing hearing Young rip Jim Messina, the Springfield’s second bass player, for ruining the mix on the album, since he would shortly use Messina and George Grantham, both of Poco, to record his first solo album. And Young adds that he and Stills really had nothing to do with the album at all. So Disc 1 is culled mainly from the first two Springfield albums with I Am A Child the only track from the third. (continue reading…)

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Much to explore in Young’s Archive

by on Jun.08, 2009, under Music

My initial misgivings about volume 1 of Neil Young’s Archive Box Set, based on a faulty Blu-Ray preview disc, are quickly being dispelled by the actual set, which arrived this past week.

The 10-disc set I have is in DVD format and it contains a plethora of re-mastered work, unreleased tracks, alternate mixes, videos and much more from 1963-72, my favorite period of Young’s career. It’s also available in Blu-Ray or as an eight-disc set in CD, minus the feature film Journey Through The Past and videos.

ny-archive-box-2I have a dedicated SACD/DVD player connected to my stereo and that’s where I have listened to it the most, although I’ve played it through one of my computers to access the visuals available while songs are playing, hidden tracks and other goodies that you can only see with a monitor.

I don’t care for listening to music through my TV setup but this set has tempted me to add a small monitor to my player to access the extras.

Speaking of extras, to my surprise, the set came with a few unexpected items. The first thing you see when you open the large rectangular tower the set is housed in is a vinyl 45 by The Squires, one of Young’s first rock groups in Canada, of the instrumentals Mustang and Aurora, which are on Disc 0 of the set, covering 1963-65. The DVDs are in a special cardboard box that folds in half revealing five discs in each half and a poster of the file cabinet screen, which is used on the discs to access individual tracks. (continue reading…)

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Taking a look into Neil Young’s Archive

by on May.27, 2009, under Music

OK, I admit it. I caved. On pre-ordering the first installment of the Neil Young Archive Box Set, that is. I wrestled with this one for a while. And it wasn’t Neil’s testimonial to the Blu-Ray format on his web site that made me more amenable to the lofty prices for this set, which is available in three formats, Blu-Ray, DVD and CD.

neil-young-preview-small1But I figured I would wind up buying it at some point anyways because it covers what I find the most interesting aspect of Young’s career, 1963-1972, and it seems that recently the best prices you can find on new releases are available before they are released. Although I have noticed the prices going down a little on the CD and Blu-Ray sets since I ordered.

Also, if you pre-order it in either Blu-Ray or DVD, you receive a preview disc in Blu-Ray of the first disc in the set, labeled Disc 00 (how high tech!?!),  just the kind of offer for which I’m a sucker.

This set has been in the pipeline for something like 15 years. Ridiculous, isn’t it? In the meantime, Young has refused to re-master any of his early albums, the ones I believe are his best, because he hates the CD format for sound quality almost as much as he hates digital downloads. (continue reading…)

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69 (albums) from 1969

by on Mar.29, 2009, under Music

When I think of 1969, I think the end of the hippie dream, the fading of peace and love. After the violence of the Democratic convention in ’68, it appeared the Yippies were taking precedence over the original anti-war movement that so many of us bought into when we were at college.

the-band-the-band1Despite the triumph of Woodstock, the year ended on the foreboding trajedy of Altamont. It was the year the Beatles said farewell, another dream that was ending. So when I think about 1969, I don’t necessarily think of great albums first. But as Mojo Magazine points out in a recent special edition with a piece aptly titled 69 from 1969, which we acknowledge with the headline above, there was a motherlode of great music released in 1969. The music was changing and the early ’70s gave us another wave of great music as well with the dawn of the singer-songwriter era. But the decade’s last year included an impressive list of offerings.

You can find music just as good or better from any year in the ’60s. But since it’s 40 years on for this watershed year, we have a poll below in which you can vote. To refresh your memory, here are some of the highlights in no particular order:

jethro-tull-stand-upThe Band, The Band: Their second release and perhaps my favorite, along with Stage Fright, filled with songs that make up one of the foundations of today’s Americana movement.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young: His second, and although I for one liked the weak-selling debut, this unquestionably has several of his standards.
Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin: Some prefer the second, released in late 1969, but this really had the bigger impact as far as influencing the music scene. It was hard rock, but quite different in some ways than anything before.
Stand Up, Jethro Tull: Arguably their best, predating the more progressive leanings of the band.

slystandA Salty Dog, Procol Harum: Speaking of prog, but really is it? Using classical ideas and instrumentation in a tasteful combination is more like it.
The Gilded Palace Of Sin, The Flying Burrito Brothers: Gene Clark, the Byrds and others had recorded tracks and some nearly full albums of what was to be called country rock, but Gram Parsons’ first project as a leader really set the stage for the Eagles and those who followed.
Tommy, the Who: Many cite other Who albums as superior to this and that’s probably true, but none had a bigger influence in the grand scheme of things.

Stand, Sly & the Family Stone: This is loaded with classic Sly songs, Everyday People, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, You Can Make It If You Try.
Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash: Deja Vu had some better songs on it, but as a trio this was their highlight.
Dusty In Memphis, Dusty Springfield: A peak  from a remarkably consistent vocalist, career defining.
Blind Faith, Blind Faith: The one-off, with about 15 minutes of filler, still holds up as a solid outing with at least a couple of rock ‘n roll classics.
Abbey Road, the Beatles: A fitting sendoff, which was recorded after but released before their official swan song, Let It Be.
In A Silent Way, Miles Davis: I preferred the first real experiment into fusion, Miles In The Sky (1967), but there is no doubting the impact of this outing.
Clouds, Joni Mitchell: I always think of this as coming out earlier than 1969, but her career didn’t take off in earnest as a solo performer until the ’70s with Blue and For The Roses.
Then Play On, Fleetwood Mac: The last gasp of the original Mac with Peter Green. It may have been the last but it has some wonderful blues romps, including Oh Well.
Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones: Their decided shift back to blues-influenced rock on Beggar’s Banquet is followed by incorporating country blues into the mix. One of their last great ones.

There are many others, the Allman Brothers’ debut; Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, not as well known in the States as the U.K., where it is a folk-rock staple; Santana’s and Chicago’s first. The list goes on.

What do you think? Vote for the best album of 1969.

This article is also available over at BabyBoom Review at this link.

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A man of more than expected words

by on Dec.23, 2008, under Music

I’ve seen Neil Young give acoustic concerts twice over the years, and he’s never been particularly loquacious in between songs. But on a new release of a concert from 1968, Sugar Mountain — Live at Canterbury House, he’s positively chatty.

There are seven raps interspersed throughout the  set list and most are amusing, if not downright funny, from the laid-back, rambling Young. Perhaps the best is Bookstore rap, in which he talks about his only other job that lasted two weeks.

As for the concert, it’s excellent. It’s better than an earlier release from his archives, Massey Hall 1971, although not by much, from 2007. That one included a video DVD of the show, which is at times brilliant and other times (static shots of a reel-to-reel tape recorder) frustrating. This set comes in a two-disc version, the second being DVD audio.

What’s to like about  Canterbury House is the era. The show is from around the release of his first very under-appreciated solo album The Loner, and many of the tunes are from it. These songs played acoustically makes the set all the more fascinating and rare.

The sound is very dry, very little reverberation, since it was recorded in a small coffee house in Ann Arbor, lending a more intimate air to the proceedings. Massey, recorded in Toronto, has more of a concert hall ambiance.

I have great respect for Young, but honestly haven’t been into his latest ventures. In fact only Freedom with Rockin’ In The Free World and Harvest Moon even scratch the surface with me in the past two decades. I love his early work and The Loner and After The Gold Rush are my favorite albums.

But to hear If I Could Have Her Tonight, I’ve Been Waiting For You, The Last Trip To Tulsa, The Old Laughing Lady and the title track from The Loner shortly after the album was completed makes for a significant document.

In addition, there are Buffalo Springfield tracks, among them Mr. Soul, Expecting To Fly and Broken Arrow, the last two big production numbers on record but here stripped down to the essentials. Also you’ll find an early version of Birds, from After The Gold Rush, done on acoustic guitar rather than piano.

These releases from the archives — they aren’t really reissues although they seem to be classified as such sometimes — almost make up for Young’s reluctance to remaster his early albums. He claims he hates the CD format and it’s unacceptable for the sonic quality he aspires to. Don’t get him started on MP3s. I kind of agree with him there at least on the low bit rates. But he’s scheduled to release the first volume of a long-awaited box set series next year and it’s going to be available on only DVD and Blue-ray audio versions at a ridiculously expensive pricetag of more than $300. Nothing on a CD release of any kind is in the works. It is eight discs but really. That’s a bit much.

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