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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young Announces Online Archive: "Opening Soon"

A Note From Neil
Neil Young Archives

On Friday, news came along that Neil Young Announces Online Archive: "Opening Soon".

This digital archives will contain Young's entire catalog with "unreleased albums" and be made available via a new high-definition streaming service called Xstream Music. The lack of a physical distribution format -- such as BluRay, CDs or vinyl -- troubles many who are leery after the demise of the PONO store and NYA Volume #1's Live BluRay Updates, which went defunct.

Here's a fan summary reaction by Scotsman:
Re: an Archives website.

I love Neil's persistence with this, trying to find the perfect medium for presenting his Archives in all their glory. He's got a vision and he is working hard to achieve it. And I love the concept behind it, following the same (wonderful) blueprint as the "filing-cabinet"-based Vol 1. It's impossible not be enthusiastic about this! Until, that is, you consider Neil's track record on these things. He's very good at starting projects; not so good at finishing them or, more importantly in this case, maintaining them. Which is the whole point of an Archive. It needs to stand the test of time. That is crucial.

So I tend to agree with everyone that the relentless format-hopping is perhaps more indicative of the problem, rather than the format itself. Music isn't really that complicated, or at least, it shouldn't have to be; the last thing you want is for it to be overshadowed by the format it is contained within. And the more complex the format, the more hugely likely it is to be abandoned in about 24 months time.

We all know this to be true. There's a reason that simple formats like vinyl and CD and even cassettes are still around decades later, whereas Pono has lasted exactly the same (short) period of time I predicted it would (see my earlier comments on the subject).

And people still love something tactile, something real. Of course we do; we are human beings, not robots. THAT is why blu-ray Vol 1 was so powerful: not only did it sound good, but it looked good, it felt good. It even smelt good! By comparison, a website will be unable to richly appeal to so many of our senses, to offer such a multi-layered, 3D experience.

Time and time again, we see Neil Young enthusiastically creating something, only for it to be abandoned in a few months when something more exciting comes along. That's what artists do; it's reliable enough to set your clocks by. Can he do things differently this time? Perhaps. I hope so. But I'm not really a betting man.

You know how I feel about this: the music in the Neil Young Archives is some of the greatest rock "n" roll ever recorded. It needs to be heard. So if this new project brings that opportunity, then it gets my full enthusiasm. Let's just hope it lasts!
Thanks Scotsman!

It seems many others feel similarly. As for us, we just like to hear that the music is out there and released from the vaults for all to enjoy.

If we had any input in the matter, we would suggest that there be some sort of special opportunity for those who went all in on BluRay Live Update downloads and PONO.

More on Neil Young Announces Online Archive: "Opening Soon".

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At 8/06/2017 12:40:00 PM, Blogger herbsworld said...

Right On! Scotsman, Thrasher, et al......
@Babbo. you are correct in your assessment of the PoNo players. They did sound great (especially in balanced mode w/ balanced cans), while they worked, that is.
$400 is too much $ for a 2yr lifespan. or less.

At 8/06/2017 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hes been "working" on these archives since 1988 and all we've seen so far is a so-so boxset of greatest hits . At this rate only Keith Richards is going to be left alive to see the real archives ....

At 8/06/2017 01:51:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Music and packaging Archives 1 over engineered to my mind.

Just give us the music, keep it simple.

That box is still looking at me - it's laughing at me.

At 8/06/2017 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Darth Malt said...

The Pono players still work the same way they worked the day you bought them - they do not need the Pono store to function, you can play any common music format including Apple Lossless and FLAC with they, and buy albums from other online stores.

At 8/06/2017 06:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 8/07/2017 12:40:00 AM, Blogger herbsworld said...

@ Darth Malt: WHAT? I have one "Dead soldier" NY & CH LE player and 2 others with both the same problem. The internal memory literally takes Hours to load ONE Album. Known Flaw Failure has NOTHING to do with the PoNo store closure or where I purchased Music files or even what Flavour files they are. If you are a PoNo owner it's in the mail, just a matter of time until you also have a toblerone shaped door stop.

At 8/07/2017 02:46:00 AM, Blogger Prez said...


Concerning the Pono Player issue's. I also have a limited edition player (bought it from the start & used it every day since) and yeah, the internal memory is not the fastest. It's true that it can take a while to transfer an album. But keep in mind, slower memory is cheaper, so probably that's a big reason why..
On the other hand, the 64 GB internal is just too small for my music collection. So I bought a 256 GB SD card (with fast transferspeeds) So all new albums I just drop on the SD card. Much faster and works with no problems.

I friend of mine had a bricked player. I reinstalled the firmware, problem solved.

Just keep in mind, Pono was founded with the help from kickstarter and has always been a (very) small company.
It's hard to start a business. Many big kickstarter successes don't exist anymore. Pebble, for example, million dollar success, great smartwatches and now dead and sold for their software. Nexbit Robin phone, decent, original smartphone, dead and sold...

At 8/07/2017 06:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More "tedious ramblings" for anyone willing to dive in:

I understand why Neil wants to go down the website route. He wants to continue with the "interactive timeline" aspect of Vol. 1, which was the least user-friendly part of the blu-ray set. And a website should certainly be more maintainable and upgradeable than the blu-ray was/is. So there is a lot to be excited about.

I don't dislike the website idea at all (though I'd prefer it as a accompaniment to a physical product), I just think it VERY unlikely that it will be maintained for more than a year or two. We know his ways, don't we? He changes. And then what happens? We lose access and are back to square one! Look what happened to the much-hyped "BD Live", which Neil was talking about excitedly prior to release. He could have made that work, if he really wanted to.

Pono, too, was hyped as being the player to end all players. But of course, hype and reality collided badly. Time and time again, Neil has taught us to be much more hesitant in getting out our wallets, and we have learned well. When you make a promise, you better make sure you can live up to it, especially if you are asking people to finance you because you don't want to use your own wealth.

Hopefully all of this is constructive.

My criticism of Pono is more one-sided. The main reason it failed is because of a fundamental flaw: people couldn't actually hear the difference. They couldn't work out what the point of it was. You can tell me the difference is "not a subtle thing" (Neil's words) as much as you like, but this claim didn't mesh with reality. It very quickly became apparent to most people that this was a completely unfounded claim.

What hi-res audio actually is (above all else) is a fairly potent placebo effect, but one with the unfortunate side-effect of trying to turn us all into dull sound quality obsessives. The Pono website, too, seemed bizarrely focused on "rating" music by its resolution, implying that anything in 24/192 is gold and albums like Ragged Glory, Sleeps Sith Angels and Time Out Of Mind are somehow inferior to Fork In The Road.

It was all completely at odds with what makes music truly enjoyable, and it deserved to fail. Though having a dedicated music player is still a worthwhile thing, I think, so those of you with Pono players still have something of value and at very least, a great souvenir/paper-weight.

Andy: I generally agree with "keep it simple", but I actually loved Vol 1. What I really liked was the way it slowed the user down, encouraging us to take our time and savour each track, rather than the modern temptation to skip through the whole thing at lightening pace. The whole thing felt like something special to be savoured. Unfortunately, the relentless search for the perfect format (which doesn't exist, incidentally) has overshadowed the actual music, as you alluded to. For me, Vol 1 was not perfect but "great enough", and I'd have been very happy to buy a second volume in the same format, had Neil bothered to maintain it. Let's see what happens with its first replacement.


At 8/07/2017 06:35:00 AM, Blogger Thos said...

Oh PLEASE put the music out as a box set, same size and format as the last one! I have both the DVD and CD editions of volume 1 and think they're great, though there is room in the DVD box for more stuff, maybe a photo book like in bob Dylan's recent box set editions of his bootleg series?
So much effort goes into Neil's vinyl releases, so it's clear he still values physical formats (and so do we, the fans). I just hope he continues to release his archives physically as they're so much more enjoyable that way.

At 8/07/2017 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

@ Scotsman & Thos agree we need to physical music, but I doubt we'll get this. Listening to Hitchhiker makes me hanker for that stripped down sound where the lyrics pull you in. Keep POTR and even the extended loud CH I prefer mid 70s Neil. Blu-Ray volume 1 was as you say an experience which required time to absorb I just think the format was rather complicated but that's me - I was surprised that so much was repeated and that there was little concert film not seen before.

At 8/07/2017 10:31:00 AM, Blogger Darth Malt said...

@herbsworld Have your tried factory reset and reinstalling the firmware on your player- is the memory issue you describe an actual physical flaw with the internal memory, is it something you've experienced since you first got the player - or something accumulated over time (sounds like the latter)? Does using the external SD card help?

There's been a lot of confusion both in the mainstream press and on this forum where people have assumed the Pono player is somehow tied or locked either to the Pono store or to some proprietary sound format, neither of which is true - it's just a higher quality (in some capabilities, not necessarily design or usability) portable player. So I made the assumption that was what you referred to - not some design flaw that leads to memory or component failure over time. But I still haven't found any other mention of such a failure?

At 8/07/2017 10:34:00 AM, Blogger Robert said...


Quality whether you want it or not.

That's all I have to say about that.


At 8/07/2017 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

Will I be able to play it in my car out on some remote northern highway or out on the water on my electric boat ?

At 8/07/2017 12:04:00 PM, Blogger downbutnotout said...


At 8/07/2017 02:28:00 PM, Blogger Old Black said...

I think the saddest thing here is that all of these postings, including mine, should have been celebrating the release of all of this wonderful music, debating what we're each looking forward to, just a joyous stream of posts full of anticipation, excitement & good will, as I said before this is our holy grail, & yet the overwhelming emphasis has been on formats, failed ventures, sound quality etc etc, & I think Neil should take note. Not that he will of course. I'm with Scotsman on sound quality, & really, is Neil these days going to be a reliable judge of sound quality? Would you take the word of an old man whose hearing would have naturally deteriorated due to age who has also spent a large part of his life on stage with Crazy Horse!? As I said before, I would like a physical release, & I think it's a bit hypocritical of Neil to deny us this given how famous he is for collecting & acquiring possessions, cars, guitars etc etc.

At 8/07/2017 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

the internet gets old after a while....and it's getting older like all of us....sometimes the idea of something is better than the idea brought to fruition....Archives 2....perhaps I'll pass on that also & wonder how great it is....sigh....

At 8/07/2017 04:03:00 PM, Blogger Phil Novo said...

I'm sorry even the immortal Keith Richards will not be around by the time Neil finishes this. A more realistic timeline would be before the Death of the sun.

At 8/07/2017 04:34:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The quality argument is largely a smoke screen for the real bug bear is that musicians who use to sell millions of CD's, sales have tanked since music lovers moved to subscription services provided by amazon, spotify, apple et al. Contemporary musicians (except for the real superstars like Swift, Adele and Beyonce) tend just to accept the current market conditions and use them to their advantage. Let’s be honest all of us fell in love with music playing it on single speaker radios and cassette players or driving noisy cars in which no thought whatsoever went into the sound system. We did not care about 24/192 etc. Indeed the luxury, high end hi-fi industry is built around selling overpriced equipment to aging music fans who are trying to gain that unattainable feeling they had the first time they heard the music they fell in love with in their youth. I listen to music now on an amazon Alexa. I have an expensive stereo system and bought a high end blu ray player and receiver to play NYA1. To be honest the Amazon Alexa sounds amazing. I have sold most of my records as I don't listen to them now. Personally I think Neil's argument went out the window when he released 'A Treasure' which was good music but recorded at a far lower sound quality and then lets not forget the instantly forgettable album he released recorded in Jack White's telephone booth and sold it in a package for over $100. I do have immense sympathy for contemporary, alternative musicians who will never earn the riches of their predecessors. I don't really have much sympathy for those who were selling loads in the 70's and 80's and now are not receiving the huge royalty cheques they got 15 years ago. Personally, I would love Neil to release the lost albums and live recordings as physical products with download codes that give you access to a wealth of web based information and recordings. I don’t really want to be investing in a top end PC with expensive sound cards, wiring and good speakers capable of reproducing the 24/192 through a computer. Believe me you will need phenomenally good PC’s to reproduce the sound to the highest quality. Ideally, though I would have immense respect if Neil just made it all available for free. A lot of research suggests that if the recording is good fans tend to buy the physical product as well as listen to the online product also. So opening up the vaults for the public may be the best commercial decision Neil could make.
"I'm not a robot"

At 8/07/2017 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Phil Novo said...

Neil I don't care if you release it on 8 track. I can probably find a player before I die.But, I've pretty much accepted the fact that I will die before you actually get around to doing may sound harsh, but although I respect your music, you are kind of a sick to your fans. Oh I'm sorry you're busy saving the world from Roundup. Good luck with that.

At 8/07/2017 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Phil Novo said...

Sorry I meant dick not sick, damn spell check

At 8/07/2017 05:06:00 PM, Blogger Art Carey said...

Yikes, this place is turning into Thrasher's Chaff.

At 8/07/2017 05:39:00 PM, Blogger Thos said...

Yes well we're all geeks really aren't we?! But that's a good point Old Black; we are collectors like Neil. Imagine a website where you could look at, read about and listen to classic electric guitars (or classic cars). It would be interesting but nowhere near as cool as a room full of real guitars and amps. (Or a garage full of cars).
Neil collects those things because he knows they're better to have in real life, so I hope he lets us collect our things, which is boxsets of his music!

PS I know Neil Young can achieve infinitely more on a guitar than we can with a box set, that goes without saying, it's a flawed analogy really. But I tried!

PPS maybe we're all jumping the gun here, just because online archives have been announced, it doesn't mean a physical copy won't be released also? I hope that's the case!

At 8/07/2017 09:37:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

It's simple, Neil lovers...

Subscription models stream cash continuously,

Physical models do it once...

At 8/08/2017 05:09:00 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

Surely some smart lad will rip the audio stream and put it up for download? That's what I'll be waiting for.


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