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Monday, November 13, 2017

PREVIEW: Neil Young Online Archives - December 1st


Yesterday, Neil Young posted another Message From "The Visitor" (#7) regarding the upcoming Online Archives planned for December 1st.

Also, yesterday was Neil Young's birthday and while celebrations were continuing around the world, Neil -- contrary to tradition -- announced a gift to his fans: "In the beginning, everything is free."


Last August, Neil Young announced that an "online archive" -- with nearly all of his recordings -- will be made available.

"Every single, recorded track or album I have produced is represented," Neil says in a old school typewriter letter posted on the Neil Young Archives website.

Timeline - Neil Young Archives

Neil types: "View all albums currently released and see albums still unreleased and in production just by using the controls to zoom through the years. Unreleased album art is simply penciled in so you can where unreleased albums will appear on the timeline, once they are completed." The Archives site -- organized using the "Filing Cabinet" system -- will let fans “choose, purchase and set up your equipment to hear the absolute best streaming music at your location."

Filing Cabinet - Neil Young Archives

Neil explains that Xstream Music, a high resolution "adaptive streaming service" with access to "pure uncompressed masters," will vary the quality of the stream depending on the bandwidth the user has available. XStream will deliver super high-res, 6,000-kilobits-per-second (kbps) quality. If using data on a mobile devices, a 700-kbps stream will deliver compact disc-quality audio. XStream will also have access to the Young promised.

Track Details - Neil Young Archives

“View all albums currently released and see albums still unreleased and in production just by using the controls to zoom through the years. Unreleased album art is simply penciled in so you can where unreleased albums will appear on the timeline, once they are completed.”

Also, see:

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


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Archives Sticky Open Threads

- Thoughts & Commentary

- Technical Questions

- Easter Eggs, Hidden Tracks &

BD Live

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13 Comments:

At 11/14/2017 12:16:00 AM, Blogger Lone Red Rider said...

I'm viewing Dec 1st as Young's re-jiggering of the Archives concept. We spent a good part of the last 30 years waiting for Neil to settle on a format. From CDs (including HDCD) to DVD (including DVD-A) to Blu-Ray. It appeared that he wasn't going to release the Archives until he got the format he wanted. But, when the Blu-Rays came out, as good as they were, they already felt dated. The navigation was plain clunky. And the idea of viewing information content by scrolling on a TV seemed...awkward. And Neil must have agreed, to some extent, because within a year, he stopped issuing BD-Live updates into the Blu-Ray-Sphere.

Also within a year of NYA-V1's release, the first iPad came out, showing the world what a smooth user interface looked like for consuming content. But it wasn't well married to high resolution. So,then PONO came out, with some promise that it could point the way to future Archives deliveries. And then it died before the high res Archives files were even posted to the PONO Store.

What then of the Archives? As early as 2013, there were hints out there that Neil was pretty much done with Blu-Ray and that Volume 1 was being redone "to be made suitable for computers". Whatever that means. Well, we now have some idea. A website will now depict the timeline and file cabinet functionality of the Archives Blu-Ray disks and the music will be streamed in an adaptive resolution format.

Personally, on December 1, I am not expecting any new music content beyond what we already have. We will simply get NYA-V1 in it's web form. But a few complaints will be addressed. What complaints do you remember from the first few days of NYA-V1?

1)It doesn't contain everything! Falcon Lake, Loosing End, Out On The Weekend, etc. Well, now it will include all that stuff. All of the released stuff in one place.

2)Clunky navigation. Well, now you can use your mouse or touchscreen to select things. And I am really curious as to what sort of networking support will be made available so that we can get the great sound over home networks to a decent stereo system.

3)Hidden Content. As far as I can tell, the hidden content has been promoted to it's own separate files.

Beyond that, I have hopes to see further enhancements: Remember those discontinued and then killed BD-Live updates? Well I have it on good authority than MANY had been prepared and were awaiting release but never authorized by Neil. These were to have included songs and even videos. I am hoping and half expecting to see these on the new NYA timeline. So this is exciting.

What I am NOT expecting on Day 1 is anything beyond the Volume 1 era. That will come. Just not on that day. How will it come? Well, it may trickle out over the years in a series of onsey-twosey single disk releases, such as the SRS series (Hitchhiker) and NYAPS series. Maybe we will get a batch of disks akin to the Archives Vol1 CDs. Maybe there will be files that appear which may never actually come out in a CD format (like those BD-live downloads or hidden tracks from the BD/DVDs). We may be well into a subscription mode by that point.

So, that's how I see it. Good times are coming

 
At 11/14/2017 05:56:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Worth noting that all of Neil's albums are already available for "free": on Spotify and other streaming services. What this new website will really allow Neil to do is present his work in a way that is pleasing to him, without the shackles and sterile blandness of the 3rd party streaming service interfaces. As and when new Archives material becomes available then we should rightly expect a fee to access it.

As for the Blu-ray set, I thought it did mostly everything right. I really like it. The timeline was the only feature that did not work well, which should be rectified on this website.

The "clunkiness" of the blu-ray set (excluding the real problems with the timeline) was actually a great asset. Streaming as we know it isn't at all clunky, in fact it is totally streamlined. Putting on a vinyl record is much more hassle; and more rewarding.

Analog in general is clunky, a hassle to operate. And "clunky" is good, because it slows us down. And when we are slowed down, we are much more likely to focus and savour.

Scotsman.

 
At 11/14/2017 06:55:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

The last 5 albums should be free. As I've said how complicated has this now become?
As Neil has got rid off Broken Arrow & Pegi is he decluttering? I agree with what's been said here the BLU RAY box was also unwieldy and difficult to store and lots of wasted packaging - the book was great but whoever designed the box didn't know anything about packaging waste ! Let's see what Dec 1st brings - 1973-1983 would be just fine and for the rest???

 
At 11/14/2017 08:27:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Andy -

In 2005 Bob Dylan noted in an interview that modern ways of listening to music had lost some "stature", and I think the blu-ray set was largely successful in addressing this issue. It's the closest a Neil Young digital album has got to the fun and interactivity of an analog release. With some care I think a well-designed website could offer a comparable experience, though a physical release like Vol 1 would have some serious advantages.

Of course, the best way to return some stature to music is to make music that has some stature built-in to it. And stature doesn't manifest itself effortlessly. Yes, a decent pair of headphones and a good quality recording can add much to the enjoyment, but (more than anything) a powerful song and a powerful performance will transcend it all. Whereas the relentless and blinkered focus on audio resolution (above a reasonable level) adds nothing other than turning a bunch of dull men into sound quality obsessives listening for differences that aren't there.

Meanwhile, masterpieces like Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels still sound timeless and endlessly-rewarding on the CD format they were originally recorded for.

(Sort of) off topic: Bob Dylan's latest bootleg Series 8-CD set "Trouble No More" is excellent. It has stature.

Scotsman.

 
At 11/14/2017 09:49:00 AM, Blogger joe mama said...

it's right there in neil's latest "visitor" post. he will be putting everything he's ever "released" on the archives site on dec 1. that means everything that's already out there. no unreleased tracks.

boring.

 
At 11/14/2017 11:39:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...


@Scotzman: I'm glad to see you back here on the Wheat. I agree "clunky" is good, because it slows us down. And when we are slowed down, we are much more likely to focus and savor".

Hearing music and feeling music are two completely different things, but as you said there is a point when the difference in resolution is unattainable to the human ear. For myself, the computer is simply a tool, not a sound system, or a movie theatre. Music is my drug of choice. It has the ability to transport me. To journey to intangible spaces outside my everyday experiences. I value the experience it offers to see and feel what reality lacks.

I also understand that technology is accelerating at a rate that it's difficult to keep up with, and therefore what we know now is only new now. One reason vinyl has become cool for the younger folks is not only better sound but it's interactive. It slows them down and this allows them time to be transported by their music, as opposed to just wallpaper in the background. Unfortunately, the masses have decided that the smart phone is the be all end all for everything they need, and maybe it is. At least for now.

I'm getting older and I suppose it's inevitable that what I value is simply becoming obsolete, so like my parents before me, I will simply become irrelevant. That being said; for now I still want the physical product. Something tangible that allows me to connect with. Vinyl is still my preferred vehicle for listening to music, and CD's for their portability, but streaming just lacks the tactile experience for me. I simply don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer screen that much. It's just a tool.

 
At 11/14/2017 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Neil lost me after Psychedelic Pill.....been 5 years now.....sigh....

 
At 11/14/2017 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Me too

 
At 11/16/2017 08:13:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Ditto

 
At 11/17/2017 02:51:00 AM, Blogger Glenn said...

So are we all in agreement now that we will never hear Homegrown or Island in the Sun, etc?

 
At 11/17/2017 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Lone Red Rider said...

@Glenn. No we will hear those unreleased albums when Neil decides to drop them into the online archive. On Day 1, I think we will see placeholders for albums Neil has planned to release but has not yet gotten around to releasing. This will include anything from the Vol2 period and beyond.

I am curious whether all of the unreleased song titles will be visible (in the file cabinet), but not just playable on Day 1.

 
At 11/18/2017 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Devin said...

I am looking forward to this and hope the interface can be used properly on a phone. For this to work well, people need to be able to easily listen to music in their car or on their headphones on the bus or walking or whatnot. I listen to a lot of Neil Young on Google Play already so I'm not sure if this will change that much or not. To make it really worthwhile, there has to be at least some stuff that was previously unreleased. I'm sure we will gradually get more of them (songs or albums) as time goes on.

I just listened to a bunch of Neil Young records this morning because of this, and am always amazed at how productive and still relevant Neil Young is, nearly 50 years after the demise of Buffalo Springfield. I know the newest stuff isn't as good as some of his all-time greats, but I still appreciate parts of Peace Trail, Monsanto Years, and almost all of Earth.

Hitchhiker was also a really pleasant surprise, and I'm surprised by how much I like some of the renditions of songs I had already heard in a different form. The stripped down version of Powderfinger is gorgeous and raw, and it's clear from listening to the album that Captain Kennedy is a sequel to Powderfinger, which is kind of cool when you think of the Lynyrd Skynyrd connections too. Later on Hitchhiker, he switches back into autobiographical mode with the title track, with some more fantasy leanings at the end as it shows the roots of Like an Inca. Of course, like I'm sure a lot of you on here, go through listening sessions like this where you jump around through Neil's discography from genre to genre and mood to mood. One thing I've noticed is that an album like Trans really works on a phone with headphones while at the gym, biking, running or walking. It's also pretty good driving music. I don't really like playing the record at home that often, but it's taken on new life in a new medium. I think I'll see more of this if this new online service is well-executed.

He has such a diverse catalogue to showcase in this new streaming service, so the release of these archives and a new album with Promise of the Real should only boost interest in him right now, which is kind of cool I guess? There was actually a post recently in /r/music on Reddit that had a lot of dialogue about why Neil is doing this and whatnot - it was interesting to read people's thoughts on his career and current music. I also don't have high hopes for The Visitor after hearing the two singles but who knows, the other 8 songs might be half decent or maybe we'll just get one or two standout tracks. One can hope!

And as for my biggest hope about these new archives on Dec. 1 - I think I'd most like to hear Toast, if it exists. I love the dark, brooding jamming jazzy stuff that Crazy Horse does best, such as the end of Walk like a Giant on Psychedelic Pill. It sounds like these Toast sessions would be similar to that maybe, at least from what I gathered from reading Special Deluxe and looking online a little bit. Anybody know if some of these are floating around from live performances of that time or anything?

First time posting here; love the site. Much love for running it!
- Devin

 
At 11/18/2017 09:54:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Great post Devin and welcome aboard.

I agree with most everything you said except I don't quite have the fondness for the "interminable" ending of Walk Like a Giant, but I'll save that critique for another time! Also, I like Peace Trail from beginning to end, but again, another time.

I couldn't agree more regarding your preference that the archives and its navigation works well on cell phones. Sadly I have a feeling Neil and his team have overlooked that segment of the market. Without a custom app, I fear the archives will likely be mostly useless on cell phones, but I'm hoping I'm wrong...

"Take my advice
don't listen to me"

 

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