Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Live at the Fillmore East, March 6 & 7, 1970 (Reprise)


FillmoreSix tracks (one previously released), just 43 minutes playing time, but there’s not a Neil Young fan in the world who won’t run out and buy this immediately. This is Neil and Crazy Horse when guitarist Danny Whitten and keyboardist Jack Nitzsche were in the band.

From the opening track, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (the title track of the then-new LP Young was touring to support), the spirit and energy of this band are apparent. The rarities “Wonderin’” (no studio version until 13 years later on Young’s rockabilly record, Everybody’s Rockin’) and “Winterlong” (studio version only on the compilation Decade) are highlights for collectors, but as beautiful a song as the latter is, it’s the long jams on “Down by the River” (topping 12 minutes) and “Cowgirl in the Sand” (nearly 15 minutes) that are musically stunning as Young and Whitten intertwine guitar lines on powerful performances that find intensity in simplicity.

It’s Whitten’s “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown” that’s been heard before, on Tonight’s the Night, which was a tribute to him and to Young roadie Bruce Berry in the wake of their overdose deaths. It’s surely significant in that regard that as Young finally begins the long-promised issuing of his archival material, this is the concert he’s chosen (in support of this assumption, check his MySpace page: It’s not a Young-sung track that represents this album, but rather “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown”).

There are caveats. For one, this album offers pretty short measure, especially for an $18.98 list price release. Young’s standard practice on this tour and ensuing ones was to open with an acoustic set, then bring out Crazy Horse. No acoustic set here. Neither is “Cinnamon Girl”; supposedly Young wasn’t satisfied with the sound of either night’s recording of that song. That said, what’s here is in very good sound – this ain’t no bootleg. The price is even more of an issue for DVD-Audio buyers: $24.98 list. Oddly, repeating the hard-to-defend decision on his greatest-hits compilation, the DVD edition includes both the DVD [with some visual elements] and the CD, which presumably adds to the expense. In terms of performance, though, my only complaint is that Billy Talbot’s bass goes horrendously and distractingly out of tune on “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

As much as I’ve enjoyed many of Young’s releases of the past two decades, even the most recent ones, it’s hard to beat what we’re presented with here: the sound of a hungry young band led by a man in the process of honing a distinctive musical vision. - Steve Holtje

This CD is available at iTunes.

sholtje.jpgMr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based poet and composer who earlier this year wrote and recorded his original soundtrack to Bystander, a documentary film by John Reilly.