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Monday, September 12, 2016

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young Archives Volume #2: "Nearly completed"

Neil Young Archives Volume #1

Last month, Neil Young's manager Elliot Roberts -- speaking to Billboard -- said that the Neil Young Archives Volume #2 is "nearly completed and should surface in 2017".

The Comment of the Moment on this latest NYA news that , is from Ian:
I can actually see the website idea working, although it's hard to imagine exactly what it might look like or what the model would be for marketing such a thing.

Do you establish an account on the website and pay to use? The difficulty is, we're all so used to going on websites (like this one) without paying anything above and beyond what your service provider charges and the cost of the computer itself. The optimist within me can envision this website setup being more cost-effective and marketable than an expensive box set with formatting restrictions. The thing is, there's just no precedent (that I know of) for this, so it's hard for me to imagine exactly what it might look like.

Archives I had lots of great stuff buried in it (new tracks, rare video, a virtual NY scrapbook, etc.), but was A) Very expensive, especially on blu-ray and B) Besides the final product being prohibitively costly, the rollout was bumpy (some would even say downright sloppy), and that may have been at least partly due to issues with deciding on and designing the format. As I remember, there were CD, DVD, and BD editions. Unless you were a total NY fanatic (like me), the only option within most people's price range was probably the CD set, which, in my opinion, was missing an incredible amount of content essential to the Archives experience due to its being audio-only. If all you got was eight CDs of mostly previously available music, you might have been underwhelmed--but, hey, people really wanted CD! (The CD release may even have been some kind of compromise between Neil and Reprise.)

The point is, the CD-only buyers got what they asked for... they just didn't know they were asking for it.

Which is to say, for all those years when the Archives were hyped (by Neil but also by fans and in rock music journalism), I'm guessing most of us were just expecting a big collection of music. Not a multi-media smorgasbord of content with a new and unprecedented user interface. With music recordings, the level of user interface we're accustomed to generally involves dropping the needle, putting the CD in the tray, or just hitting your keyboard or touchpad. It's become increasingly clear (to me) that The Archives is, or has developed into, a completely different and more complicated beast. Or at the least, it's only relatively recently that NY fans have (myself included) have genuinely begun to understand what the Archives might be, and it's not exactly what folks may have had in mind for all those decades. It seems Neil is using the word "archives" quite literally: a complete curation of his body of works--not limited to previously unreeled music, and not even limited to music. It's not our fault we're still getting our heads around this. There's no precedent for this, so we really no comparison point except other box sets, and as far as I know, nobody ever explained all this in detail. But that doesn't mean we can't adjust. Back when Archives I came out, I referred to it as "The Neil Young Museum". It would be a little self-aggrandizing for Neil to actually call it that, but it's the clearest description I've yet come up with for what (I think) The Archives is meant to be.

Anyhow, I'm hopeful for the Shakey Films collection. I guess Rust Never Sleeps and Human Highway were part one of that project. I hope some of the rarely seen videos from the '80s albums pop up somewhere along the line, and maybe one of the movies is the Trunk Show?
Thanks Ian! Good points and lots of memories from that NYA #1 rollout. Those were exciting times here at TW with Archives Guy stopping by on a daily basis to provide project updates. Hard to say what will happen with NYA#2 rollout at this point.

More on Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About The Neil Young Archives But Were Afraid To Ask.

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At 9/12/2016 01:45:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

just checked the website for Sunday's outlaw festival and seems they've reduced ticket prices (albeit not cheap but cheaper) and there are excellent seats available, some in the first few rows …

At 9/12/2016 10:48:00 PM, Blogger Cyclebrarian said...

I appreciate the notion of seeing the Archives as a truly archival project that includes more than just audio content. The music is, of course, the centerpiece, but I invested in the BD version of Archives 1 in part because of the access provided to video and photo content as well. And, while expensive, I was happy with the package overall.

Where I object to the comparison with traditional archives is the devotion to ongoing access. Traditional archives in the world of libraries (full disclosure: I'm a librarian) are dedicated to long term preservation of materials. They vary in their access, though increasingly we are seeing many archives digitizing content and making them as accessible as possible to anyone with an Internet connection. In a commercial environment such as the music industry, the access model is fee-based. And that is understandable. So, with Archives 1, if you bought the BD version at it's premium price, you were given the impression that you would have ongoing access to all the content, including that which is only accessible via the internet. Only, as it turns out, a few years later, that access has been rescinded. That doesn't inspire a lot of faith in a future Archive release that is based on Internet access.

Before releasing Archives 2 under such a model, Neil (or Reprise or whomever has control over the servers) should reinstate access to the BD-Live content from Archives 1. And/or, an alternative model would be to go the Creative Commons route and release the Archives to the web at no cost, just like many libraries and cultural heritage institutions do. I'm sure the Internet Archive would be more than happy to host it.

At 9/13/2016 11:22:00 AM, Blogger timothy fontenot said...

Archives 1 has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. My cynicism toward NY began at that time.First it was the cost, then the content[re-release of both mostly new and archival content ]and finally the sloppy way the BD-Live content came and ultimately went away[the good news the $475 Blu-ray player Archives guy told me to buy still works].Buying his music and going to his concerts no longer became a must.Before I bought everything with great enthusiasm and went great distances to see him play[since 2009 I've seen him twice and only purchased 3 LP's ]. To say I have plenty of trepidation toward Archives 2 is an understatement.I'll just wait it out and see with plenty of mistrust and apprehension[sort of like this presidential election-I haven't decided if I'm deplorable enough yet...but I'm close]

At 9/13/2016 11:46:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

If they do a web site they should provide people an mp3 download with it. To me Neil's place as a singer songwriter, musician, and performer is unparalleled. I give him a much lower score regarding his ability to produce and distribute his archival material … its his work, so his prerogative, but he (and long suffering fans) would be better served if he delegated and allowed his team to release material more consistently and more quickly … not to mention that many long time fans are in their 60s and 70s and won't live forever … i wasn't particularly moved by archives volume I, other than the performance series and would simply prefer them to release those regularly like the Grateful Dead has done … also, Neil should move to providing soundboards of shows immediately after they conclude like many others are now doing … in a digital world waiting 10 or 20 years for releases isn't mysterious its a bottleneck … one of Neil's great strengths is perfectionism but a strength overdone is a weakness and in the case of his archives its been, IMHO, a weakness which gets more glaring as time goes on. Again, its his material but I think he would serve his music, legacy, and longtime dedicated fans by relinquishing control and delegating with an aim to get things out faster and more constantly …. Anyhow, as a fan I find plenty to get excited about presently, the new music and performances, and have sort of given up caring about the archival material … if/when Archives II comes out (not holding my breath and think discussing it is mostly a waste of time) I'll wait for reviews to decide whether to buy it or not, if its a website service it probably won't get me interested.

At 9/13/2016 03:04:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Archives 1 was the only reason we bought a Blu Ray player in the first place, and for that I'm very grateful. The movies, concerts and documentaries we have now in High Def is just amazing. The picture and sound are far superior to DVD's and the disc's take up much less room on the shelf. The Performance Series has also been fantastic, as Neil has made them all available on CD and vinyl, and for me anyway, the vinyl is the preferred format.
As for Archives 2, I'll wait and see what format is used, but for me personally I would appreciate a physical product that I can hold in my hand and access at my leisure. I'm really not a fan of a web site as the only choice, but what I want is clearly not a priority to Neil or his record company.

At 9/13/2016 03:13:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@ Cyclebrarian - Thanks for the archivists perspective here. We have to say that we have a similar perspective ... hence the origin of TW.

But obviously, commercial considerations drive NYA. Neil has always put his art above commerce -- much to the annoynace of his record labels. See Geffen records, Exhibit A.

@timothy f: We're some trouble reconciling your views on NYA#2?

Earlier you said:

"I promised myself nothing would ruin my vacation in the Montana Rockies. So Archives 2 huh! After two weeks in the wilderness and to read this. All I can say is life is good and Archives 2 will be an extraordinary masterwork. "

Now you're singing a different tune? Which is it?

@Dan - yes, it does seem that The Archives concept which goes all the way back to Decade release in 70's, needs serious updating. If only Neil had stuck with that revolutionary 3 disc approach in the 80's, 90's & 00's. If only.

Now here we are in 2016, where technology evolves far more rapidly than a product lifecycle, we're stuck in a no man's land.

Maybe someday Neil will just throw up his hands and say release it all now. but probably not.

At 9/13/2016 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Arthur said...

"....Of course you are my bright little star!

I'm miles and miles of files...PRE-FILES!...

Of your forefathers fruit!

And now to suit....OUR GREAT COMPUTER!....

You're magnetic ink!..."

Anyway, that's how I feel about it.

- Arthur

At 9/13/2016 04:35:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Update for Sunday's show at Montage --- the venue said approx. start times are:

Neil & POTR at 6.40
Willie at 8.40

I guess that means we're unlikely to get a 3 hour show
that said, maybe Willie doesn't mind starting a bit later, especially if he's enjoying Uncle Neil and his boys :)

At 9/13/2016 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Christian said...

Neil is on Dan Rather's The Big Interview tonight at 8 on Axs Tv for anyone who's innarested...

At 9/14/2016 06:00:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Archives 1 was/is a mild disappointment only for the lack of new material downloads via the internet for me. With the blue-ray format we received the download card for the mp3s which I transferred to CD so I could crank it in the car and out of any stereo that didn't have the blue-ray attached. I did buy the blue ray player for it which in retrospect I think Archives 1 are the only blue ray discs I even own, but it plays the DVDs so I can live with that. Journey thru the past is a gem and to be honest, I'm not sure I've even traveled all the way through everything that there is (except the cds). Bring it on Neil! Anyway you want it, that's the way I need it...what a Journey!

At 9/14/2016 07:35:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

If I had to guess the majority of people here want a PHYSICAL PRODUCT. I'd prefer the Blu-Ray version even though I got the DVD version in 2009 as I didn't own a Blu-Ray player & didn't want to add another $100+ to the price. Anyhoo...please just release this so people like us who want to hold it in their hands can do so. Websites come and go...physical releases stay for those who save - meaning all of us here willing to shell out the $$$ NY wants to make while "making us happy"

At 9/15/2016 05:16:00 PM, Blogger Justus T said...

Might the NYA#2 look something like Dylan's Cutting Edge website ( I am excited about the format and expect it to be even less limiting than Blu Ray. E.g.: on the mentioned website you can listen to the separate tracks of Like a Rolling Stone, and even mix them yourself. For the road, I hope a more standard format (downloads?) will be available too though.

At 9/16/2016 10:28:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Thanks for the spotlight, Thrasher, and thanks to everyone else for their comments. I understand people's frustrations and disappointments with the previous Archives releases. But essentially, my prescription at this point is to be patient and open-minded. We must await whatever may come.

@Cyclebrarian--Your points are well-taken. As I said, it's impossible to know what the purported website will entail, but I'm hopeful that such an arrangement could in fact make the NY archives more universally accessible (we could get into semantics about whether a fee-for-use system truly limits access, to what extent it does so, and whether it's sometimes necessary--but that's a little beside my point). I really don't know what it costs to do something like what the NY camp is describing (since I don't know what what exactly they're hinting at), nor what or how the consumer might pay for it. One possibility, which I didn't previously highlight, is that one indeed purchases a physical product, in the form of some computer hardware. The Beatles' full catalogue was reissued a few years ago such an an all-digital format (along with CD and vinyl editions), where the consumer basically buys a USB drive containing all of the materials (see if you don't know what I'm referring to. A "website" doesn't really sound like something along those lines, but I'm trying to keep everything on the table here, since there's really no way of knowing for sure what this new format might look like.

As to BD live, what I'd hope for is that the website would eventually include all Archives material (including that from vol. 1, including previous BD-live tracks). It it really is a virtual archive, it only makes sense to me to put everything in one place--and make what has become unavailable once more accessible to the consumer. The website set up could also alleviate the evident difficulties in maintaining the BD live system and it would mean you don't need the premium blu-ray set to have access to all of that material. A website can be regularly updated with new content that all users can access, and as we all know, once you put it on the internet it doesn't go away easily. It's permanent and it's all in one place. If you're getting the content online, though, I don't know what that means as far as the kind of device that would give you the optimum playback quality and user experience. Maybe it's designed for BD players and gaming consoles that connect to the web? And where does Neil's hi-fi audio play into this setup? I'm imagining people listening the Archives on built-in computer speakers, and if you're using tinny speakers, the audio mastering doesn't honestly matter that much.

I like the download card idea, the same as is done for current vinyl releases and was done for DVD/BD Archives I. People are going to want their content portable. The ability to play your music anywhere, anytime is taken for granted today as part of the expected user experience. People want that kind of flexibility, and so do I, so I'm all in for downloads of the music. Although on the other hand, if you can access the material from any digital device (which seems like a possibility), will that really matter?

At 9/19/2016 07:05:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@ Ian - lots of good thoughts there on what might be.

The optimum solution is a moving target that Neil keeps chasing. He went long with BluRay only to get semi burned. I don't envy his shoes on this.

We would think the PONO store has to tie into this somehow. Unless Warner contract precludes, then it would seem having the hi-res on PONO and other files on website.

Anyone want to take bets on 2017 release?


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