"Sugar Mountain Live" Reviews
NPR's All Songs Considered is now streaming Neil Young's Sugar Mountain.
Recording is from the Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 9th & 10th November 1968.
Neil Young was horribly nervous before the performance and had to be coaxed from his hotel room by his manager Elliot Roberts and the minister of Canterbury House, Dan Burke. Burke tells NPR Music he remembers Neil Young huddled in Young's hotel room bed, too scared to perform. He told Burke no one would want to hear the Buffalo Springfield tunes or his new tunes. Young was afraid he didn't have enough material. But he was eventually persuaded to take the small stage.
Reaction has been wildly enthusiastic thus far.
A grand day to be alive and listening. Finally a visionary Commander-in-Chief who happens to be black, and now this: The Holy Grail of Neil Young bootlegs on NPR tap! An unprecedented gesture of generous intimacy, thank you Neil, thank you public radio.
SML now ranked
From Crawdaddy by Steve Matteo:
Neil Young is one of the most beloved figures in rock music to first emerge in the 1960s. He is also one of the most maddening. Much like Bob Dylan, Young has survived and thrived living by the motto “don’t look back.” He has impulsively left styles, bands, record company honchos, and even his fans shaking their heads in the dust as he veers off in yet another new musical direction. No goodbyes, thank yous, explanations, or reasons. When Young decides to move on, it’s best to just get out of the way. Again, like Dylan, it is this need not to be pigeonholed and stuck in one style of music, or with a particular group of musicians, that has allowed him to transcend being a relic or a caricature of the ’60s rocker, helping him to thrive and stay relevant.
From Glide Magazine review by Doug Collette:
Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House is not projected to be included in the long-waited and oft delayed Neil Young Archives multi-disc set now due sometime early in 2009. Nevertheless, together with the aforementioned Massey Hall and Live at Fillmore East with Crazy Horse, this release, as scintillating a depiction as it is of a prodigious talent first hitting his stride, may very well render that release anticlimactic.
From Jambands.com by Brian Robbins:
"The music, of course, is the main reason to own Sugar Mountain, but the raps between songs are neat audio photos of a young Neil alone on stage. After the airy chords of the opener, “On The Way Home,” he makes a confession: “I wish I’d brought a comb tonight. This is the longest my hair has ever been … it really is. I’m gonna let it grow and grow and grow and grow.” The child-like tone of that proclamation just nails you – heck, you want to hug the kid and take him home for a bowl of hot soup.
Other between-song gems include the process of songwriting (“Things come to you and all you are is a radio station … you know what I mean? You send out and it comes to you”), tuning issues, and the fallacy of trying to mix bookstore employment with “diet pills.”
For some, Neil’s tendency to boil down his guitar work to what simply needs to be to tell the story and get the feeling across has been a source of debate over the years. Sugar Mountain is a prime example of what’s right about his style: neither “Mr. Soul” nor “Broken Arrow” suffer for lacking the full Buffalo Springfield arrangement – and songs like “The Loner” lose none of their dropped-D tuning crunch in this setting."
From Los Angeles Times by Randy Lewis:
"The blessing and the curse of the Internet for musicians is that every step they take, professionally and personally, becomes available for public consumption instantaneously. That's created unprecedented opportunities for connecting with fans, but it has also stripped away a lot of the mystique that used to be a key facet of stardom.
It's hard to imagine 40 years from now finding a 2008 live recording by Britney Spears, Madonna or Hinder revealing anything that isn't clear today.
That makes 'Sugar Mountain -- Live at Canterbury House 1968,' the vintage live set by Neil Young being released this week on CD and DVD, all the more fascinating as a journey back to a watershed point in the musical evolution of one of the rock era's most valuable players.
"I never plan anything ahead, in case anybody hasn't noticed," he says by way of introducing the title tune.
A more prescient statement of a more mercurial and rewarding career rarely has been uttered."
Terrific retro-review on Bob Lefsetz Letter:
"Listening to 'Canterbury House' I was jetted back decades. There was no Webcast, you had to be there. And after the show, you went home and played the album(s) for days. Told everybody about your secret, even though they were clueless."
From The World Wide Glen: Welcome to My Thoughtmare:
Of the three live records released in the Archives series thus far, Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968 is by far the most satisfying. Not only does it capture a very young Neil Young in just about as raw an environment as it gets, it also shows the artist connecting with his audience in a way that has rarely, if ever been seen coming from an artist of Neil Young's iconic standing.
From Uncut.co.uk by ALLAN JONES:
One of the pivotal songs here, I think, is the surreal 'Last Trip To Tulsa', which as the closing track of Neil Young would be regarded by some as an aberration, too heavily indebted to Dylan, its solo acoustic setting at odds with the rest of the album. Now, of course, its impressionistic narrative – nightmarish, absurd, paranoid, awash with grim portent - can be heard as the precursor to masterpieces to come, like 'Ambulance Blues' or 'Thrasher' and even 'Ordinary People', that similarly took the pulse of the nation and its people.
Sugar Mountain is a fascinating snapshot of Neil Young at a transitory moment in his long career, for which it also provides an indelible template. This is in many ways how he would sound for the next 40 years. At least, that is, when he wasn’t raging noisily with Crazy Horse, taking various detours into unadulterated country, winsome folk, synthesiser-pop, stylised rockabilly, big band R&B, grunge, electronic experimentalism, otherwise undermining convenient expectation or elsewhere meandering down the musical avenues that have at various times left fans baffled and at least one record company exasperated enough to want to sue him for not sounding enough like himself, when in fact for all this time he has sounded like no one at all but himself.