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Neil Young - 'Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968' (Reprise) Released 08/12/08

A must-hear for anyone with even a passing interest in the Canadian legend...

Neil Young - 'Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968' (Reprise) Released 08/12/08
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    For years now, Neil Young has sported the untouchable aura of a genuine rock ‘n’ roll giant; less a mere musician than a bona fide legend who only has to step on stage and strap on his well-battered axe – be THE Neil Young - to ignite roars of admiration in the gathered throng.

    It wasn’t so when ‘Sugar Mountain – Live at the Canterbury House’ was recorded 40 years ago. Despite having tasted fame in the ranks of Californian folk-rock should-have-beens the Buffalo Springfield, Young was an unproven entity as a solo artist, his quivery cat’s meow of a voice and moody tunes having already alienated music biz bigwigs sufficiently for his songs to be relegated to the B-sides of Buffalo Springfield singles.

    Considering this, perhaps it’s inevitable that Young, captured here strumming (piano and harmonica, future key elements of Young’s solo acoustic arsenal, aren’t in the house tonight) his way through Buffalo Springfield cuts and selections from his yet-to-be-released solo debut in Ann Arbor, Michigan, initially sounds more than a bit nervous. Caught out of his comfort zone performing all on his lonesome without any band mates to fall back on, Young opts to cover the lack of an extended song portfolio with rambling, hugely entertaining raps, including a comic account of his (very) brief pre-pop stardom career as a bookstore clerk to bemoaning the narrow selection of original material he’s able to draw from.

    The result is a compelling document of an immensely talented musician who’s yet to figure out just how gifted he really is, well before multi-million album sales, globe-spanning tours and oodles of acclaim catapulted the artist to an entirely different world from the mundane one the vast majority of his audience reside in. There’s an endearing vulnerability to the slightly rushed run-throughs of Buffalo Springfield evergreens ‘On The Way Home’ and ‘Mr. Soul’, almost as if Young had just shuffled on stage at an open mic evening armed with a handful of uncommonly striking songs. Young sounds genuinely thrilled when an audience member knows his past output well enough to request an airing of the world-weary ‘Out of My Mind’, and the songwriter’s clearly still figuring out how to transport such complex creations as the epic anguish of ‘Expecting to Fly’ to a one man and his guitar set-up.

    One for Young fanatics only, then? Not quite. Despite the odd spot of unsteadiness, ‘Sugar Mountain’ soon acquires enough of a hypnotic atmosphere to be ranked alongside such equally stark and unpolished solo live recordings as Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Live at the Old Quarter’. Granted, it’s not quite up to the mesmerising standards of the stunning 1971 solo set heard on ‘Live at Massey Hall’, the previous instalment in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series, and as such not the ideal entry point to those unaccustomed to solo Young. Even so, performances of the calibre of ‘The Old Laughing Lady’ – oozing with ill-at-ease mystery and superb raga-hued string-bashing – and ‘I’ve Been Waiting for You’, a brilliantly stripped- and slowed-down reading of an overlooked gem, not to mention the lovely, lilting ode to passing youth that gives the platter its title, are a must-hear for anyone with even a passing interest in the Canadian legend.

    • I think your missing the point here, listening to a Neil Young album was never about comparison, it's about the moment which was captured from 40 years ago, it was then, and also how an individual feels about it now

      ~ by dave dooks 12/8/2008

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    • My package contains a DVD that has no visuals of the performance. Just a screensaver of Young's face, with "falling snow." The DVD appears to be nothing more than a CD you can play on your television. Am I doing it wrong?

      ~ by Reinaldo Garcia | Send Message | 12/9/2008

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    • The DVD only contains High Definition audio. The CD has a quality of 16 bit and 44..1 khz while the DVD has 24 bit and 96 khz. On a good stereo it will make a difference and I'm glad Neil Young choose to include such a High Definition audio DVD!

      ~ by Ravian 12/9/2008

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