Sneak Preview of Live at Massey Hall
Thanks to an inside source, Thrasher's Wheat has obtained an advance release copy of Live at Massey Hall. So, here are a few thoughts on the first listen.
Live at Massey Hall more than just captures Neil Young's triumphant return to his Canadian home town Toronto on January 19, 1971. It provides an intimate portrait of the artist opening himself up to his audience while becoming more confident and comfortable with his rising fame.
While Live at Massey Hall has circulated as a bootleg for many years, this is the first time we hear a superb soundboard quality recording that fans have been yearning for with the Archives release series. For those semi-disappointed with Live at the Fillmore East not being a complete set, Live at Massey Hall should more than make up for that decision. In what appears to be an edited recording of 2 performances (early and late shows), the 17 song CD allows us to hear virtually what the Toronto audience experienced over 35 years ago.
Regarding the Archives #3 release, Neil said:
"This is the album that should have come out between 'After The Gold Rush' and 'Harvest'. David Briggs, my producer, was adamant that this should be the record, but I was very excited about the takes we got on 'Harvest,' and wanted 'Harvest' out. David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why."
Playing new songs that would later appear on Harvest like "Old Man", "Needle and the Damage Done", and "Heart of Gold" one can only imagine the experience of hearing the eventual classics live in concert the first time. The audience clearly adores Neil's homecoming, welcoming nearly every song's opening notes with applause.
Shifting between acoustic guitar and piano, the concert also includes several songs the audience is familiar with such as "Ohio", "Cowgirl in the Sand", and "Down by the River". But it is the new songs (at the time) which are most striking. "Journey Through The Past", which would not be released until Times Fades Away, played on piano is simply gorgeous.
Neil truly reveals himself in his between song chatter while tuning and changing instruments. The comments are perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the CD in fact. We hear Neil gently admonish a photographer for taking pictures. We learn that Neil has just written 3 songs over the past several days. We learn that Neil has a new home -- a ranch in California.
Another striking revelation on the CD is the careful phrasing Neil gives to songs which we're so familiar with like "Helpless". The freshness of presentation is literally astonishing. While we've all heard "Heart of Gold" more times than we can count, the song's inclusion in the "Man Needs A Maid" suite is genuinely touching.
Humorously, Neil introduces "Man Needs A Maid" as a "Broadway musical". The song also includes a subtle lyric variation -- which are always fun to spot. Instead of "A Man Needs A Maid", Neil substitutes the line "Afraid, a man feels afraid."
One of the concert's funnier moments did not make it to the released CD. Just before "Bad Fog of Loneliness", Neil says "I hold a meeting with my songs every 6 months to see which ones get recorded. This next song wasn't even invited to the meeting." Moments later, Neil chastises the audience for applauding, saying "What're you clapping for? You don't know this song". Instead, we hear the early show performance introduced by describing an upcoming performance on "The Johnny Cash Show".
In some ways, you can almost hear Neil mature while listening. Not just as a singer-songwriter but as a unique musical talent, as well. Happily, Live at Massey Hall offers us another tantalizing glimpse of what's ahead in the Performance Archives series.
So with a little less than 2 weeks until the official release of the Archives Massey Hall CD, it is already
Preview CD by clicking below.