Friday, December 13, 2013

Neil Young 46: Live At The Cellar Door

One of the selling points for the Blu-ray version of Neil’s Archives box was that it provided the capability to download additional material as it became available. His rationale was that if he discovered something he considered Archive-worthy, it would go right into the virtual filing cabinet around which the project was formatted. And for the better part of a year, right around each month’s full moon, a new item would pop up to add to the pile of music already contained in the set. Since then, nothing.
In a move guaranteed to irritate Blu-ray owners, Live At The Cellar Door, compiled from six shows over three days late in 1970, emerged as a standalone CD. This installment of his Performance Archive Series (dubbed “2.5” to go between the already-established 2 and 3) was recorded a whopping six weeks prior to the shows sampled for Live At Massey Hall. Given that this period has already been well mined—“See The Sky About To Rain” having already appeared on the box—and folks have been clamoring for any news on the status of Archives Vol. II and beyond, this disc may seem redundant to those of us without Blu-ray players. Were these solo acoustic performances really that different from any others, in the way that shows by the likes of, for example, the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa or even Neil with Crazy Horse might have been?
Luckily, it is a little different. “Expecting To Fly” receives a nice treatment at the piano, for example. So does, amazingly, “Cinnamon Girl”, so often associated with electric fuzz, and here with an intro resembling that of “After The Gold Rush”, which is likely the reason for the spontaneous applause. He acknowledges that he never did it that way before, and it’s pretty clear why. In fact, half of the album is a showcase for his “almost a year” of piano playing.
Given the between-song “raps” that dotted similar releases, Live At The Cellar Door mostly sticks to the music, except for a three-minute detour before “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”. The prelude is punctuated by his fingers messing with the piano strings to comic effect, while the song itself travels from sorrowful to jaunty and back. It’s one performance that makes the album worth owning.

Neil Young Live At The Cellar Door (2013)—3