Monday, September 27, 2010

Neil Young 39: Sugar Mountain and Dreamin’ Man

By now the continual teasing about the Archives had become maddening. Things weren’t helped by Neil’s insistence that the two installments in the “Performance Series” (Volumes 2 and 3 out of at least 12) that had already come out would be included in the Archives box when it finally, supposedly, would appear.
To make things even more confusing, an installment dubbed Volume 0 (as in zero) was released with the explanation that it was not going to be part of the box set. Sugar Mountain was recorded over two nights in November 1968, from which the classic B-side that gave this collection its title had been recorded. It’s a fascinating document, captured at a point in his career where he was known (if at all) as the guy from Buffalo Springfield who had yet to released his first solo album. He mixes songs from the Springfield with his new originals deftly, interspersed with somewhat stoney commentary between songs. There’s even an early performance of “Birds”, which wouldn’t make an album for two years, a demonstration of the melody for “Winterlong”, which was nine years away from record stores. And of course, the classic “Sugar Mountain” fits fine in its initial context.

A year later, after additional teasing of its own, Volume 12 of the Performance Series appeared in the form of Dreamin’ Man, changed from its original announced title of Harvest Moon Live. As that title would suggest, this was a collection of live versions of the songs on that album, recorded mostly on Neil’s preview acoustic tour before the album was released. Performed completely solo, without harmonies or other sweetening, it’s basically an unplugged performance of the album a full year before the performance that made up his actual Unplugged album. While it provides another view of the songs, it’s unlikely to convert anyone who didn’t like the Harvest Moon album in the first place.

Neil Young Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 (2008)—
Neil Young Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92 (2009)—3


  1. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what Neil Young is doing with these releases. I really enjoy Canterbury House, especially the between song patter. It's interesting to compare this performance to the one captured on the Massey Hall set. By 1971 Young is a far more confident performer with a songbook nearly anyone would envy. But of course the close connection to the audience is also long gone, which is something you can really feel when listening to Sugar Mountain.

  2. I got a lot more out of Fillmore East and Massey Hall than I did these, as can be read. Fillmore was too short. (I'll be able to discuss Riverboat in context of the Archives when we get there.)

    What he's trying to accomplish will only be understood better when all the Archives are out. I can't imagine how he's going to fill in the eight gaps between Massey Hall and Dreamin' Man.