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Neil Young, ‘Live at the Cellar Door’ – Album Review

Reprise Records

Unlike Bob Dylan‘s similarly themed ‘Bootleg Series,’ the various volumes in Neil Young‘s ‘Archives’ haven’t stretched out much. Aside from 2009′s massive early-career box set and a couple of later concert documents, the albums in Young’s ongoing series mostly have been live shows from the first few years of his solo period.

The latest, ’Live at the Cellar Door,’ collects 13 songs from Young’s six-show stand at the Washington, D.C., venue from late November and early December 1970. And like many other volumes in the ‘Archives Performance Series,’ this one chronicles solo acoustic cuts that strip some of Young’s earliest classics to their barest states.

That means the piano and acoustic-guitar performances of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Down by the River’ are less epic than what you’re used to. But they’re way more intimate, capturing both Young’s breath between verses and the clinking of audience members’ drinks. The arrangements, less fussy than the studio versions that were released a year earlier, yield to Young’s folk roots.

The whole performance does, in fact. ’Live at the Cellar Door’ unplugs and finds the comfort in just a voice and a couple of basic instruments. But so do several other ‘Archives’ volumes. And this one doesn’t seem as epic as the Massey Hall show that was released in 2007.

Still, fans will dig into the bounty of tracks from ‘After the Gold Rush,’ which was released just a few months before these shows, and the Buffalo Springfield songs in the sets. Plus, the rarity ‘Bad Fog of Loneliness’ and an early version of ‘Old Man’ (which wouldn’t appear on record for another two years) are welcome additions to Young’s canon. But how about something a little more electric next time? Or, better yet, another box picking up where the first one left off?

Next: Top 10 Neil Young Songs

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