Wednesday, October 07, 2009

not new music

Neil Young - Citizen Kane Junior Blues (Live at The Bottom Line, NYC, 16 May 1974)

Neil Young has to be somewhere near the top of the proverbial "people either love 'em or hate 'em" list of musicians, up there with the likes of Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, and Frank Zappa. There just seems to be no middle ground for the guy at all, which, to me, is rather unfortunate. I can't see how an artist with a 40+ year career, including a 10 year run through the 70s that is nearly unrivaled in terms of both creative and commercial success, rarely has a moderate appeal to so many people. Oh well, fuck it. I clearly fall into the "love em" group and writing this paragraph is the only time that I'm going to devote to this argument, for now.

Anyway, the story goes that Neil Young went to the Bottom Line to see a Ry Cooder performance and decided to play an unannounced/unplanned set after Cooder had finished his. Thankfully, somebody had the presence of mind to roll tape for this, as this show is somewhat of an anomaly in Young's career. Throughout the 70s he frequently toured, whether it be with Crazy Horse, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or as a solo artist, but, as far as I know, he rarely did one-offs like this and it was even more rare that they were actually recorded and preserved.

Neil's solo performances were notoriously intimate, and this one is no different. He frequently takes time to introduce songs with stories, take requests, and even shares a rather interesting technique for ingesting marijuana with the audience. Despite the usual Young schtick, this recording is unique in the fact that it his only recorded solo performance of 1974 to make it's way to the public and includes very rare acoustic performances of songs from his then forthcoming lp On the Beach. He plays about half of the record during the hour long set, turning in a particularly moving rendition of Ambulance Blues.

It's no secret that Neil has been making several archived recordings public over the past few years, releasing three live albums and a rather comprehensive nine disc box of material compiled between 1963 and 1972. Logic would dictate that the next archival release(s) will cover his mid-70s period, and hopefully allow more performances of this caliber to see the light of day.


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