Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971


The second live album released in Neil’s ongoing archive series, Live At Massey Hall 1971 is as excellent and essential as Live At The Fillmore East, and is that album’s polar opposite because this solo acoustic and piano performance shows Neil at his very best as a sensitive singer-songwriter whereas the prior full band effort focused on Neil the rampaging rocker.

Recorded in Toronto during his Journey Through The Past tour in between two of his most important and successful studio albums, Neil is treated by his enraptured audience like the hometown hero he is, though in truth the crowd applause probably should’ve been mixed down a bit since the hysteria seems oddly inappropriate given the intimacy of the performance. This is a nitpick, however, because on the whole the sound quality is superb, as Neil’s fragile high-pitched voice comes through crystal clear; I’m not sure if his voice has ever sounded better.

I can take or leave some of the between song banter, and I do miss the fuller fledged harmonies on some of the songs here, but the majority of these performances are first rate, and the song selection hits on most of his major songs (the biggest omissions are probably “Cinnamon Girl” and “Southern Man”) while being idiosyncratic enough (unsurprising for such a mercurial artist) to interest both casual and hardcore Neil Young fans (the latter of whom this release is more geared towards, naturally).

At the time of this performance, 8 out of the 18 songs here had yet to be released on a Neil Young album, including five from Harvest, which truth be told is somewhat diminished by this release, as the string-less versions of “A Man Needs A Maid” (with different lyrics here and done as a medley with “Heart Of Gold”) and “There’s a World” seem more fitting and are definite improvements. Elsewhere, Buffalo Springfield songs (“On The Way Home,” “I am a Child”) open and close the show, CSN&Y is represented by “Helpless” and “Ohio,” and less obvious selections come in the form of “Journey Through the Past,” “Love In Mind” (both later to appear on Time Fades Away), “See the Sky About to Rain” (later to appear on On The Beach), “Dance, Dance, Dance” (which had previously appeared on the self-titled Crazy Horse album), and “Bad Fog Of Loneliness,” which makes its first appearance on a Neil Young album here, though truth be told I can see why it hadn’t seen the light of day previously.

Elsewhere, stripped down acoustic renditions of “Cowgirl In the Sand” and “Down By The River” can’t compare to their electrified counterparts (that goes likewise for “Ohio”), but these are still good songs and these performances fit in naturally with the rest of the album. On the whole, though maybe it doesn’t offer anything new to the seasoned Neil Young fan, this was still a much welcome release because it reinforces what a terrific singer, songwriter, and performer Neil is, as the minimalist solo only approach works extremely well here.

Neil himself interestingly commented as follows: “This is the album that should have come out between After the Gold Rush and Harvest. David Briggs, my producer, was adamant that this should be the record, but I was very excited about the takes we got on Harvest, and wanted Harvest out. David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why.”

Note: This album is also included as part of his The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972 9-cd box set released in 2009.

March 4, 2013 - Posted by | Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971 |

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