Neil Young/ Live At The Cellar Door (Reprise, 2013)
This release is part of the Neil Young Archives Performance Series, being labeled Disc 2.5. This was recorded seven weeks before one of the other Archives series releases, Live At Massey Hall 1971, over six shows in late November and early December, 1970. Like that live album, this is an excellent performance and a high quality recording. This being an earlier page of the same chapter as Massey Hall, this is the After The Gold Rush solo tour with an intimate vibe. No backing band, only Neil singing in a druggy haze, playing guitar or piano, depending on his mood. Fans who were lucky enough to be at these shows were hearing the first ever public performances of Old Man and See The Sky About To Rain. Fans would not be able to buy those on album until 1972 and 1974, respectively.
The set bounces between the After The Gold Rush album, then-unreleased songs, and a few tunes from his days in Buffalo Springfield. His between song banter is low key, sometimes coming off as lost or despondent. My favorite banter comes before Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, where Neil says “It’s about what happens when you start getting high, and you find out that people you thought you knew, you don’t know anymore, because they don’t get high and you do.” I am sure that the smell of herb was prevalent in the crowd that night and many of the long hairs in the audience were nodding in agreement. I wonder where those people are now.
The most powerful moment on the album is the piano version of Expecting To Fly. He stated how he was playing on a nine foot Steinway, with it being in his contract because he thought that it would be eccentric. The thing that I love about Neil Young, aside from his songs, of course, is his blunt honesty. He does whatever he wants to, whenever he wants to, with little regard to the personal or financial consequences of his whims. The “smart” thing for him to do in this era would have been to stay with the cash cow Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Instead he cut the downbeat After The Gold Rush and played clubs and small auditoriums. He wears his heart on his sleeve, coming off as either vulnerable or lashing out, both being equally convincing. He also does it without coming off as being manipulative or a pussy, which is what most artists who emulate his template come off as. This album is a must have if you are a Neil Young fan or a fan of honest music in general.
Now if we can get another Archives box set or a reissue of Time Fades Away...
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.