Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East (1970)


Although this album was (finally) released in 2006, I’m putting this review here because chronologically this is where it makes the most sense. For years me and many fans waited for Neil to start releasing archive material, much like Bob Dylan has done with his terrific Bootleg Series of albums, and when this 43 minute album appeared many people were disappointed by how little material Neil saw fit to release.

After all, it was well known that Neil and Crazy Horse (also including Jack Nitzsche on piano as an official member here) had recorded an acoustic set and that “Cinnamon Girl” was part of the electric set, but personally I’m not too bothered by this because I prefer my Crazy Horse fix served raw and electric, plus there are plenty of other live performances available of both acoustic Neil and electrified versions of “Cinnamon Girl.” The bottom line is that what is here is fantastic.

First of all, the sound quality is better than any bootleg of these performances you’ll ever hear. Secondly, what performances! The album kicks off with a predictably great “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” always a personal favorite, and it also includes excellent versions of “Winterlong” and Whitten’s “Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” both of which I’ve also long had an affinity for and these may be the best versions I’ve heard (with apologies to the Pixies who also did a wonderful cover of “Winterlong”).

The other short song is “Wonderin’,” a bit of a rarity in that it wasn’t officially released until Neil’s 1983 rockabilly record Everybody’s Rockin’, but though this easily loping number is also modestly enjoyable let’s face it the reason that this album is so great is because of its two long longs. The 12+ minute “Down By The River” and especially the 16-minute “Cowgirl In The Sand” are astounding, utterly thrilling highlights that also might be the best versions I’ve heard of these songs.

Man, this is rock ‘n’ roll as it’s meant to be played, with real musicians playing real instruments, with finding the groove and locking in being more important than technical perfection. The vocals are a bit raggedy but not in a bad way, and needless to say there are plenty of extended guitar solos along the way; with apologies to Frank Sampedro and Stephen Stills, I don’t think that Neil ever found a guitar foil as sympathetic, who so perfectly fit what he was trying to do, than Danny Whitten, who was a talented singer and songwriter as well (for more information about him on this front read my review of Crazy Horse’s criminally overlooked self-titled album from 1971).

Anyway, again it’s easy to criticize this archive release for its imperfections, which includes shoddy packaging (no liner notes from the guy who self-penned notes about each song on Decade?) but which mainly is simply too short and leaves you wanting more. Then again some of his other live albums are definitely too long, and I’ll always be on the side of too short over too long so long as the overall quality is as high is it is here.

The bottom line is that this is Neil Young & the first version of Crazy Horse at their absolute best, and Neil Young & (either version of) Crazy Horse at their absolute best delivered some of the best guitar-based rock music ever recorded (especially live music). Note: This album is also included as part of his The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972 9-cd box set released in 2009.

February 24, 2013 - Posted by | Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East |

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