Monday, June 7, 2010

Neil Young 38: Fillmore East and Massey Hall

At the end of a busy year, Neil finally made headway on his threat to open his fabled Archives with the release of Live At The Fillmore East, a 1970 electric set with Crazy Horse culled from two out of four shows in two days. At only 43 minutes, it was a mere taster for everything else he’d been sitting on. Still, it’s a great souvenir, including a strong take of “Winterlong” seven years before any official release and even the original arrangement of “Wonderin’”, thirteen years before its eventual recorded debut. The band is tight—well, as tight as it would ever be—and these renditions rival any other in the canon. (It was also available with a DVD that included various Joel Bernstein photos from the shows nicely presented montage-style.) While “Cinnamon Girl” from the same show was only available later as a download, it still gave fans hope that more was truly on the way.

Sure enough, not four months later Live At Massey Hall 1971 presented another fabled bootleg in pristine condition. Running over an hour, this certainly offered more value to those still miffed about missing the rest of the Fillmore show. It’s a pretty special set, with a highly appreciative Toronto audience showing their enthusiasm. Having been performed before the first Harvest sessions, nine (ten if you count “A Man Is A Maid/Heart Of Gold Suite” as two songs) of the 17 tracks hadn’t appeared on albums yet. “Bad Fog Of Loneliness” and “Dance Dance Dance” got their first spots in the official canon, and this made the first official appearances of “Journey Through The Past” and “Love In Mind” on CD, given the continued absence of Time Fades Away.

On the DVD version, the audio was synced to footage captured a few days later from two shows at the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut. The audio and the matching restored video were eventually released as Young Shakespeare, making the third gig released from the same general period. It’s not a complete show; the dozen songs are shuffled from the Massey Hall program, with “Sugar Mountain” as the only song not included on the earlier disc.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, two of the first installments of his Official Bootleg Series were dedicated to nearly identical shows from earlier in the month. One features a snippet that would turn into “You And Me” twenty years later, and the other was the night that begat the official versions of “The Needle And The Damage Done” and “Love In Mind”. While the albums replicated the original bootlegs and were edited to fit on vinyl, he was kind enough to host the complete shows on his site, with extra chatter and audience response.

But rewinding to 2007, Fillmore East and Massey Hall were denoted as the second and third installments of the projected Neil Young Archives Performance Series. They were and still are essential for Neil fans, providing an excellent balance of his electric and acoustic personas. This was a very fruitful period, smack dab in the middle of his first go-round with CSNY. Looking back, Neil said he should have released them as is when the shows were still fresh. Better late than never.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Live At The Fillmore East (2006)—4
Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971 (2007)—4
Neil Young
Young Shakespeare (2021)—
Neil Young
Royce Hall (2022)—
Neil Young
“I’m Happy That Y’all Came Down” (2022)—

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