Six tracks (one previously released), just 43 minutes playing time, but thereâ€™s not a Neil Young fan in the world who wonâ€™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, â€œEverybody Knows This Is Nowhereâ€ (the title track of the then-new LP Young was touring to support), the spirit and energy of this band are apparent. The rarities â€œWonderinâ€™â€ (no studio version until 13 years later on Youngâ€™s rockabilly record, Everybodyâ€™s Rockinâ€™) and â€œWinterlongâ€ (studio version only on the compilation Decade) are highlights for collectors, but as beautiful a song as the latter is, itâ€™s the long jams on â€œDown by the Riverâ€ (topping 12 minutes) and â€œCowgirl in the Sandâ€ (nearly 15 minutes) that are musically stunning as Young and Whitten intertwine guitar lines on powerful performances that find intensity in simplicity.
Itâ€™s Whittenâ€™s â€œCome on Baby Letâ€™s Go Downtownâ€ thatâ€™s been heard before, on Tonightâ€™s the Night, which was a tribute to him and to Young roadie Bruce Berry in the wake of their overdose deaths. Itâ€™s surely significant in that regard that as Young finally begins the long-promised issuing of his archival material, this is the concert heâ€™s chosen (in support of this assumption, check his MySpace page: Itâ€™s not a Young-sung track that represents this album, but rather â€œCome on Baby Letâ€™s Go Downtownâ€).
There are caveats. For one, this album offers pretty short measure, especially for an $18.98 list price release. Youngâ€™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 â€œCinnamon Girlâ€; supposedly Young wasnâ€™t satisfied with the sound of either nightâ€™s recording of that song. That said, whatâ€™s here is in very good sound â€“ this ainâ€™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 Talbotâ€™s bass goes horrendously and distractingly out of tune on â€œCowgirl in the Sand.â€
As much as Iâ€™ve enjoyed many of Youngâ€™s releases of the past two decades, even the most recent ones, itâ€™s hard to beat what weâ€™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.
Mr. 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.