posted on November 04, 2007 05:23
The second disc to be released from his Archives file, this live set, captured in front of an adoring crowd in Toronto in 1971, shows Neil Young on top of his game. With a set containing material from his first two albums, as well as songs from the (at the time) upcoming 'Harvest', Young proves that he's unrivalled in his ability to engage with an audience in an acoustic setting. A magical live album.
The CLUAS Verdict? 8.5 out of 10
The release last year of 'Live At The Fillmore East' provided the first tangible evidence that Neil Young might just follow through on his long held promise to release his mammoth Archives project. Now further proof has arrived in the shape of 'Live At Massey Hall 1971'.
This live set captures Young in what may well be the most creatively fertile period of his long career. The past year had seen him take massive strides with 'After The Goldrush', as well as a diverting sojourn with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Though he was still a year away from the fully fledged superstardom that the gargantuan sales of 'Harvest' would bring, 'Massey Hall' bears evidence that this would be a mere formality.
Recorded in front of what was effectively a home crowd in Toronto, the sense of excitement from start to finish is palpable. Though Young was in a back brace after an accident on his ranch he clearly wasn't about to let it get in the way of capturing the audience in the palm of his hand. Accompanied only by guitar and piano, he sets about mesmerising the crowd with an arsenal of tunes, the likes of which only Dylan at the time was in possession of.
To single out highlights from this album is tantamount to trying to find the shiniest diamond in the mine. Simply put, there is something here for everybody. Young delivers the old in the shape of beautifully stripped-back versions of 'Cowgirl In The Sand' and 'Down By The River', while 'Don't Let It Bring You Down' is as haunting as ever. As with any Neil Young show there are rarities aplenty- 'Bad Fog Of Loneliness' and a laidback 'See The Sky About To Rain' testify to this- but perhaps the best part of the show is the delivery of new material.
Much of the subsequent dissatisfaction with 'Harvest' centred around the dilution of brilliant songs with an avalanche of orchestration. 'Massey Hall' shows these (at the time) new songs in a very different light. Shorn of its bells and whistles, the ominous chords of 'There's A World' finally come to the fore. 'Old Man' sounds as life-affirming as ever, while to hear the segue of'A Man Needs A Maid'into 'Heart Of Gold' is to bear witness to an artist on an unstoppable role.
David Briggs, Young's long time producer and friend, deemed this performance so good that he felt it should be the official follow up to 'After The Goldrush'. When one hears this album it's easy to understand his enthusiasm. Though Neil Young still has much to offer as an artist, both musically and ideologically, there can be no argument that throughout the 70's he never put a foot wrong, as 'Live At Massey Hall 1971' reveals.
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