Neil Young Decades is one of the most ambitious Young bootlegs to be produced. It’s a project to collect his more interesting songs in various arrangements collated from the vast archive of live tapes. OMS state on the cover of the box they use soundboard tapes, but that isn’t accurate. They utilize available audience recordings ranging from excellent stereo DAT tapes to fair recordings from the seventies.
Decades draw comparisons to last year’s big Neil Young box set Road Of Plenty: The Unreleased Songs 1966 – 2010 & Live Rarities 1969 – 1984 (Godfather Records BOX04). At sixteen audio and one DVD, Decades is much longer than the six disc Godfather set. It also much more variety since it’s not focused exclusively upon unreleased songs and rare live performances.
In the words of the manufacturer: ”This set does not contain complete concerts but rather hundreds of unreleased soundboard recordings throughout Neil’s career. The concept is to offer you an insight into how songs have developed and changed through the years. For example you hear one song performed solo acoustic and the next track is the same song with full band played 20 years later. The set also strives to include seldom-heard songs performed live like the touring that followed the release of the On The Beach album. You get to hear all the songs he played only on that tour and then never again in his life.”
The earliest music dates from his initial studio sessions in 1965 and the most recent date from early 2011. The stylistic variations in the tunes reflect Young’s absorbing and, in many cases, critiquing current styles ranging from sixties folk to seventies arena rock, eighties new wave and nineties grunge.
These stylistic variations are also reflected in the different bands Young played with throughout the years. He’s joined by The Mynah Birds, Crazy Horse, The Bluenotes, The International Harvesters, The Lost Dogs, The Stray Gators, The Santa Monica Flyers, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Echoes, Poncho and The MG’s, Neil Young & His Electric Band, The Prarie Wind Band, The Gone With The Wind Orchestra, The Shocking Pinks (the 1983 Trans era band) and of course solo.
Decades is a gorgeous package. Each disc rests in its individual single cardboard sleeve and they are all housed in a gorgeous box with a thick booklet with detailed track listings. Overall it’s a nice production and a true labor-of-love. However, they are not all soundboard recordings and the organization is hard to follow. It seems the material are thrown together on the disc without forethought. The editing also could have used more work. Too often, when a song ends, you can hear the stage introduction to the following song of the concert only for it to be cut and you’re moved onto the next track on the disc.
Given the scope of this project, the rest of the review with touch upon points of interest on each disc instead of a detailed commentary on everything. Seasoned Neil Young collectors, to whom this box is targeted, will know by looking at the track listing if this will be worth having or not.
And given the high interest I’m publishing this review partially finished. Keep checking back to read the paragraphs on each piece as they are being written.
(77:01): Sugar Mountain (solo) Dorthy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA – February 1st, 1971 / I’ve Been Waiting For You (with Crazy Horse) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – June 21st, 2001 / I Ain’t Got The Blues, studio 1965, unreleased Elektra single / It’s My Time (Neil Young & The Mynah Birds) studio 1966, unreleased single / The Sultan (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) RAI Theatre, Amsterdam – February 20th, 2008 / Burned (Neil Young & His Electric Band) Trent FM Arena, Nottingham, UK – June 23rd, 2009 / Broken Arrow (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Everybody’s Alone (solo) KQED Studios, San Francisco, CA – February 19th, 1970 / Expecting To Fly (solo) Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway – April 25th, 2003 / The Loner (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL – November 13th, 2007 / Last Trip To Tulsa (solo) Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA – March 5th, 1999 / Wonderin’ Intro (solo) KQED Studios, San Francisco, CA – February 19th, 1970 / Wonderin’ KQED Studios, San Francisco, CA – February 19th, 1970 / Here We Are In The Years (with Crazy Horse) last show at Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA – November 24th, 1976 / Mr. Soul (with The Lost Dogs) Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW, Australia – April 18th, 1989
The first disc focuses upon the songs written early in Neil Young’s career. OMS’s intent with this box set is obvious in the first two tracks. ”Sugar Mountain” first appeared as a b-side to “The Loner” in 1969. It was played live a few times in the following two years but never became a regular until the Journey Through The Past tour in January, 1971.
Taken from the final show of that tour, it is a distant but clear audience recording from scratchy vinyl. But the epic 10 minute performance really sums up the genius of the artist. Part confessional and part sing-along, it demonstrates Young working with the audience to invite them to understand his muse.
It’s followed by “I’ve Been Waiting For You” from his 1969 solo album debut Neil Young. Except for two performances in 1968, it wasn’t played live until he toured with Crazy Horse in 2001 and OMS utilize an excellent stereo audience recording from Rotterdam.
Other interesting tracks include the unreleased 1965 demo “I Ain’t Got The Blues” rejected by Elektra Records and an instrumental take of “It’s My Time” with one of Young’s early bands The Mynah Birds.
Much of the rest of the disc it taken with several tracks from the February 19th, 1970 KQED radio session “Everybody’s Alone” and “Wonderin’” (including intro), “Broken Arrow” taken from the famous 1970 show in Cincinnati a week after, and a phenomenal 1989 feedback laden reading of the old Buffalo Springfield track “Mr. Soul.”
(79:03): Heart Of Gold (solo) Firestone Vineyards, Los Olivos, CA – September 28th, 2003 / Pardon My Heart (solo) The Bottom Line, New York, NY – May 16th, 1974 / Bandit (solo) Firestone Vineyards, Los Olivos, CA – September 28th, 2003 / Homefires (solo) Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA – March 24th, 1992 / Feel Your Love (solo) Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK – May 18th, 2005 / The Ways Of Love (solo) The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 24th, 1978 / Country Girl (with Crazy Horse) The Bitter End, New York, NY – February 12th, 1969 / Slowpoke (solo) Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA – March 20th, 1999 / Change Your Mind (with Crazy Horse) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 2nd, 1994 / Hanging On A Limb (with Frank Sampedro and Ben Keith) Muziek Theatre Stopera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – December 10th, 1989 / Comes A Time (with Crazy Horse) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 28th, 1995 / Long May You Run (solo) Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland – March 13th, 2003 / Razor Love (with Frank Sampedro and Ben Keith) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – December 13th, 1989
The second discs in the Decades box set is devoted to various mellow acoustic folk tunes played throughout Young’s career. In keeping with the theme of the set, the well known tunes are given slightly different arrangements than what we’re used to. ”Heart Of Gold” is given a stark, slightly quicker reading in 2003 than in other performances.
“Comes A Time,” another wildly popular tune, is given a whimsical treatment with Young strumming along to the tune instead of picking out the melody. It’s more of a crowd pleasing anthem than the expected contemplative nature.
OMS include two 1974 rarities. ”Homefires,” a song still unreleased, was played in a handful of shows on the CSNY reunion tour and in 1992. ”Pardon My Heart,” played in the 1974 Bottom Line show in New York and once more on August 15th that year in the Nassau Coliseum with CSNY. ”Hangin’ On A Limb” is another rare song. It was released on Freedom in 1989 and played only five times that year.
The highlight of the disc is “Change Your Mind” from the 1994 release Sleeps With Angels. The label use the pristine recording of the full twenty-minute performance from the Bridge School Benefit in 1994. It is one of Young’s anti-protest songs. Written during the early years of the Clinton presidency in the early nineties, it reflects much more hope and optimism than his songs written under Republican presidents in the past (and future) such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. The lyrics are minimal but the song contains many long instrumental passages of great power and beauty. The entire set can be found on the excellent Bridge 1994 Day 2 (Zion-006).
(79:12): Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Winterlong (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) United Palace, New York, NY – December 13th, 2007 / Mellow My Mind (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Velma V. Morrison Center For The Performing Arts, Boise, ID – October 18th, 2007 / New Mama (with The Stray Gators) Carnegie Hall, New York, NY – January 21st, 1973 / Nil’s Tune (with The Santa Monica Flyers) Palace Theatre, Manchester, England – November 3rd, 1973 / New Mama (with The Santa Monica Flyers) Palace Theatre, Manchester, England – November 3rd, 1973 / Speaking’ Out (solo) Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO – September 15th, 1992 / Roll Another Number (with Crazy Horse) The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA – November 13th, 1990 / Albuquerque (with The Santa Monica Flyers) Royal Festival Hall, London, England – November 10th, 1973 / Albuquerque (solo) Aerial Theater, Houston, TX – June 1st, 1999 / Traces (studio outtake 1973) / World On A String (with The Santa Monica Flyers) Royal Festival Hall, London, England – November 10th, 1973 / Tired Eyes (with The Santa Monica Flyers) Royal Festival Hall, London, England – November 10th, 1973 / Lookout Joe (with The Stray Gators) Carnegie Hall, New York, NY – January 21st, 1973 / Borrowed Time (with The Stray Gators) Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY – January 14th, 1973 / Tonight’s The Night (with The Bluenotes) Audurn Hills Palace Arena, Detroit, MI – September 4th, 1988
Decades‘ third disc focuses upon Danny Whitten and the “ditch” era. Young’s and Crazy Horses’ success in 1971 and 1972 was tempered by Whitten’s drug use. He was kicked out of Crazy Horse in 1971 and died of an overdose in November 1972. Young’s subsequent albums were dark, contemplative, and angry.
The disc starts off with Whitten’s “Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown” taken from the February 25th, 1970 show in Cincinnati, the first show of the year and the first Neil Young with Crazy Horse show with Jack Nitzsche. It is followed by “Winterlong” from the New York show in December, 2007 which Young dedicates to Whitten.
OMS also include two versions of “New Mama.” The first is taken from the January 1973 show at Carnegie Hall in New York and sounds close to the version included on Tonight’s The Night. The second is taken from November of that year in Manchester, England, and is much different, featuring the band singing in harmony. The latter is proceeded by “Nils Tune.” It refers to Nils Lofgren and is a short jam on “Roll Out The Barrel.”
Most of the recordings are taken from 1973 concerts, but a handful come from much later performances. ”Winterlong,” from 2007, “Mellow My Mind” from Boise in 2007, ”Speaking’ Out” in 1992, “Roll Another Number” in 1990 and “Tonight’s The Night” from Detroit in 1988 are all played more with reverence and reflection rather than anger and depression.
(76:18): Pushed It Over The End (solo) The Bottom Line, New York, NY – May 16th, 1974 / Walk On (with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Roosevelt Raceway, Westbury, NY – September 8th, 1974 / See The Sky About To Rain (solo) Music Hall, Boston, MA – January 21st, 1971 / Revolution Blues (solo) The Bottom Line, New York, NY – May 16th, 1974 / For The Turnstiles (Neil Young & His Electric Band) Sportpark Boshoven, Weert, The Netherlands – July 11th, 2008 / Vampire Blues (solo) Mondavi Center, Davis, CA – July 15th, 2010 / On The Beach (solo) Congress Centrum, Hamburg, Germany – April 29th, 2003 / Motion Pictures (solo) The Bottom Line, New York, NY – May 16th, 1974 / Ambulance Blues (with The Prairie Wind Band) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 22nd, 2006 / Pardon My Heart – The Old Homestead (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY August 15th, 1974 / Goodbye Dick CCrosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY August 15th, 1974 / Cripple Creek Ferry (with The Stray Gators) Carnegie Hall, New York, NY – January 21st, 1973 / L.A. (with The Stray Gators) Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, ON, Canada – January 15th, 1973 / Don’t Be Denied (solo Trans) UICC Pavilion, Chicago, IL – January 15th, 1983 / Time Fades Away (with The Stray Gators) Carnegie Hall, New York, NY – January 21st, 1973
Decades disc four continues the exploration of the “ditch” era, focusing upon material from Time Fades Away and On The Beach. Before the first (of many) over-hyped and ultra commercial reunions with CSN&Y he played a low-key gig at The Bottom Line in New York on May 16th, 1974, playing many songs from On The Beach. Suggested by fans for official release, it exists in a very good audience tape. OMS include three songs from the gig on this disc.
“Pushed It Over The End,” which Young calls “kind of a quiet song, called, ah… ‘Citizen Kane Jr. Blues,’” this is the first of only performances of the unreleased track. The Bottom Line is also the only appearance as a solo track. The other thirteen were on the CSNY tour later that year. OMS include the final performance at Wembley on disc seven.
“Revolution Blues” and “Motion Pictures” from this show are also included on this disc (“Pardon My Heart” and “Greensleeves” from this show are also included elsewhere in this collection). “For The Turnstiles” wasn’t played live until the late eighties. OMS include a performance from the the Bosop Festival in The Netherlands in 2008, the only time it’s been played since 1989.
“Pardon My Heart” from the August 15th Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young show at the Nassau Coliseum, is played for the second and final time. Released in 1975 onZuma, it’s played in a medley with “The Old Homestead” a song that wouldn’t be released until 1980 on Hawks & Doves. It is sourced from a poor audience tape, but it is a magical performance.
“Goodbye Dick,” the following track, is taken from the same show. An impromtu banjo-based ditty celebrating the resignation of President Richard Nixon the previous week, the poor sound quality makes it hard to follow the words. But the Nassau Coliseum audience laugh hysterically.
“Cripple Creek Ferry,” the final song on After The Goldrush, was the opening tune of the January 21st, 1973 show in Carnegie Hall in New York. The only available recording is a fair audience tape, but it’s a great performance and extremely rare. Young played the song only two more times (1992 in New Jersey and at the 1997 HORDE Festival in Phoenix, Arizona). ”Time Fades Away,” the final song on the disc, is also taken from this Carnegie Hall show.
“Don’t Be Denied,” a feedback slice of sludge from 1973′s Time Fades Away, is a surprise addition to the Trans set list in 1983. Instead of a Sennheiser Vocoder VSM201 transformation, he plays it as a sensitive solo acoustic piece with the occasional drum and synthesizer elaboration. OMS use an excellent recording from Chicago.
(65:21): Ordinary People (with The Lost Dogs) Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW, Australia – April 18th, 1989 / White Line (with Crazy Horse) Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – November 10th, 1976 / Human Highway (with Crazy Horse) Hammersmith Odeon, London, England – March 31st, 1976 / Interstate (with The International Harvesters) Bayfront Center Arena, St. Petersburg, FL – September 17th, 1985 / Cortez The Killer (solo) Congress Centrum, Hamburg, Germany – April 29th, 2003 / Spirit Road (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 28th, 2007 / Mideast Vacation (with Crazy Horse) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 21st, 2001 / For The Turnstiles (with The Lost Dogs) Bunka Taiikukan, Yokohama, Japan – April 27th, 1989 / No Hidden Path (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 28th, 2007
The fifth disc of the Decades box set can be loosely themed “songs given their live premier before the official release.” Six of the nine tracks are recordings fitting this description, beginning with the opening song “Ordinary People.” The long acoustic narrative was given its live debut in the summer of 1988.
The lyrics have narrative continuity with the others on This Note’s For You, but stylistically the live arrangement fits his seventies folk output rather than The Bluenotes’ R&B. OMS use a recording from the April 18th, 1989 show in Sydney, the song’s final live performance. It would be released almost twenty years later on Chrome Dreams II in 2007 (The studio recording sounds very much of its era – it’s been dubbed “Cortez The Killer” with horns).
“White Line” was released on 1990′s Ragged Glory but was played three times fifteen years before its release (and once in 1999). This is an excellent audience recording from Fort Worth, Texas. ”Human Highway” follows. The banjo-scored meditation made its stage debut in 1973 but wasn’t officially released until the LP Comes A Time in 1978. The label use a great sounding tape from London in 1976.
“Interstate” was played only nine times in September, 1985. It was recorded in studio in 1990 and finally released in 1996 on the Broken Glory LP only and the “Big Time” CD single in Germany and Australia. Not sure why it’s such a hassle to obtain, but the label use a gorgeous stereo audience recording from St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Cortez The Killer” is one of the exceptions. The Crazy Horse electric version was released on Zuma in 1975. But this is a folk acoustic version from Germany in 2003. The stark arrangement does nothing to diminish the song’s power.
“Spirit Road” recorded at the Bridge Benefit in 2007 which corresponded to its release on Chrome Dreams II and has been played constantly over the past five years. “Mideast Vacation” is the lead track on 1987′s Life and was played eighty-seven times in 1986 and 1987. It technically fits the pattern of the disc, but the label uses a recording from the Bridge School Benefit in 2001.
“For The Turnstiles” from On The Beach is taken from a show in Japan and is played in a different arrangement than the Bosop Festival recording on disc four. The disc ends with “No Hidden Path.” Much like “Spirit Road,” it was released on Chrome Dreams II and made its live debut about the time the disc was released and is present in its fifteen-minute long glory from the Bridge Benefit.
(71:46): Fuckin’ Up (with Crazy Horse) Bonnaroo Festival, Manchester, TN – June 13th, 2003 / Cortez The Killer (with Crazy Horse) The Forum, Inglewood, CA – October 24th, 1978 / Cinnamon Girl (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Chevrolet Theater, Wallingford, CT – December 7th, 2007 / Dangerbird (with The Echoes) The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA – May 9th, 1996 / Cowgirl In The Sand (with Crazy Horse) The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA – November 13th, 1990 / Powderfinger (with Crazy Horse) The Forum, Inglewood, CA – October 24th, 1978 / Down By The River (solo) New World Music Theater, Tinley Park, IL – October 3rd, 1998
Decades 6 focuses upon some of Young’s legendary feedback-laden guitar epics. Despite the seventy-one minute duration, only seven tracks are included on this. The two shortest songs are “Cinnamon Girl,” taken from Wallingford, Conneticut in 2007, runs just under four minutes and “Powderfinger” from Los Angeles in 1978, at just under six minutes, are the shortest.
Most run about ten to twelve minutes and the longest is a twenty minute rave-up on “Down By The River.” Taken from his appearance at Farm Aid in Tinley Park, Illinois, it is probably the longest version on record. And endless stream of guitar solos and duets threaten to derail the song at times. At one point someone even starts to play what sounds like “Eleanor Rigby,” but it ends with an astounding climax.
“Cowgirl In The Sand” is taken from the legendary 1990 show and two songs, the above mentioned “Powderfinger” and “Cortez The Killer” originate from the final night of the Rust Never Sleeps tour in 1978 and would be his final show for many years. This is perhaps the most fun disc to listen to for those who love Young’s endless guitar solos.
(69:00): Let It Shine (with Crazy Horse) Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – March 6th, 1976 / Midnight On The Bay (with Crazy Horse) Hammersmith Odeon, London, England – March 29th, 1976 / Give Me Strength (with Crazy Horse) late show at Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL – November 15th, 1976 / Tell Me Why (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Fillmore East, New York, NY – June 4th, 1970 / A Man Needs A Maid (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) INB Performing Arts Center, Spokane, WA – October 20th, 2007 / No One Seems To Know (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – November 15th, 2007 / Two Old Friends (with Poncho and The MG’s) Nürburgring, Eifel, Germany – May 18th, 2002 / Change Your Mind (with Crazy Horse) Hamilton Warren Amphitheater, Sedona, AZ – October 22nd, 1994 / Helpless (with Crazy Horse) The Bitter End, New York, NY – February 12th, 1969 / Long May You Run (solo) Teatro Smeraldo, Milan, Italy – May 3rd, 2003 / Pushed It Over The End (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Wembley Stadium, London, England – September 14th, 1974
The seventh disc of Decades focuses upon the contrast between Neil Young the folk-song balladeer and Neil Young the loud rock star. The opening tunes are taken from the acoustic portions of their respective show’s set lists. The first two songs are from the underrated 1976 LP Long May You Run. ”Let It Shine” is a rarity, played in only nine shows between March and July. The label use the performance from the March 6th, show in Osaka, Japan. It sounds as if they use the Mr. Peach tape which surfaced several years ago and can be found on Best Chaw? (Tarantura TCDNY-4-1, 2).
The following two shows are also quite scarce, rarely played after 1976. ”Midnight On The Bay” was played five times and only once after 1976, and “Give Me Strength” remains unreleased. It was played nine times in 1976 and one each in 1985 and 1997
“Tell Me Why” is on Young’s third solo LP After The Goldrush but began it’s live stage life as a CSN&Y song. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, they sing beautiful four-part harmony. This recording is taken from a soundboard recording from the Fillmore East in New York.
“A Man Needs A Maid” was a consistent part of the set in 1976, but was rested for thirty years until Young reintroduced it in 2007. Complete with “Like A Hurricane” introduction, Young accompanies himself on organ instead of piano. This performance is from Spokane, Washington, the second time it was played that year. (The first was on october 18th at Velma V. Morrison Center For The Performing Arts, Boise, Idaho, USA).
“No One Seems To Know,” still unreleased, is an unofficial sequel to “Maid.” It too was played in 1976 and dropped for thirty years until reintroduced in 2007. The label uses the performance the following month in Washington DC. It’s followed by “Two Old Friends,” released and played on the tour for Are You Passionate? in 2002. One of his catchiest tunes.
A twenty-minute version of ”Change Your Mind” is taken from the Verde Valley Benefit in Sedona, Arizona, on October 22nd, 1994. Unlike the acoustic Bridge School Benefit earlier that month, Sedona is a full electric version with long fuzzy guitar solos in the middle, much like his famous jams.
“Helpless” is listed as being with Crazy Horse from The Bottom Line in New York on February 12th, 1969. But that is an error. Young did play that venue with Crazy Horse, but no tape exists and nobody knows the exact set. In fact “Helpless” wasn’t played live until November that year. And the recording, an excellent soundboard, is a Crosby Stills Nash & Young show, not Young with Crazy Horse.
The disc ends with the CSNY arrangement of “Pushed It Over The End.” Taken from the final show of the 1974 reunion tour in Wembley, it is a full and electric arrangement sourced from the video soundtrack. It stands in contrast to the solo version played a The Bottom Line in New York which opens disc four. Steven Stills provides excellent guitar in this recording of the song which has never been released and has never been played after this performance.
(74:29): My, My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) (solo) early show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 24th, 1978 / Shots (solo) late show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 27th, 1978 / Ride My Llama (solo) late show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 27th, 1978 / Look Out For My Love (solo) Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria – May 4th, 2003 / Like A Hurricane (solo) Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA – March 24th, 1992 / Lost In Space (Neil Young & His Electric Band) O2 Arena, Dublin, Ireland – June 21st, 2009 / Thrasher (solo) early show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 24th, 1978 / Sad Movies (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – November 15th, 2007 / Campaigner (studio outtake) / Kansas (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – November 16th, 2007 / Pocahontas (solo) Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – April 19th, 1999 / Southern Man (with Crazy Horse) Suwannee Park, Live Oak, FL – August 23rd, 1997 / Powderfinger (solo) late show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 26th, 1978 / Depression Blues (solo) Beacon Theater, New York, NY – February 17th, 1992 / Shaddup, Asshole – Don’t Let It Bring You Down (solo) Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA – April 24th, 1999
Most of the songs on disc eight originate from Young’s fecund period in the mid to late seventies which produced American Stars N Bars, Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps, Live Rust, Hawks And Doves and the underrated Re-act-or.
In May 1978, several months before Comes A Time was released, Young played eight shows at The Boarding House in San Francisco. Dubbed the One Stop World Tour, it was Young solo introducing not only songs from the new album but also songs that would appear on some of the later albums as well.
Five of the tracks on the disc come from these shows including the first three. ”My, My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” originates from the first show of the stint. This is the live premier of a song that would really define this era, it has a few embellishments in the guitar not found in other performances. The audience’s reaction is almost immediate, however, confirming its status as a quasi-anthem.
It’s followed by “Shots” from the May 27th late show. This is an acoustic performance of a song that would be given a full electric arrangement when recorded for Re-act-or in 1981. It is played at every one of these dates, but would never surface again, even after it was given official release. The third Boarding House recording is “Ride My Llama” from Rust Never Sleeps. Young jokingly calls it an “extraterrestrial folk song.”
The other two Boarding House tracks are the stage debuts of “Thrasher” and “Powderfinger.” The former, “Thrasher,” is the second track on Rust Never Sleeps and hasn’t been played since that year. Young makes a mistake in the middle and starts over. The latter, recorded for the same album, not only had a much longer stage life but has become one of his most mysterious anthems. This performance is a solo acoustic rendition, far from the electric jam it would become.
“Look Out For My Love” was released on Comes A Time but wasn’t given its stage debut until a decade later. Little seen since, the Linz performance is its most recent. ”Lost In Space” has a similar story. Recorded and released onHawks And Doves in 1980, it wasn’t played live for almost thirty years until it found its way into eight shows in 2009.
The final track is an excellent recording of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” from the April 24th, 1999 show in Philadelphia. The “Shaddup, Asshole” label at the beginning is his response to a heckler interrupting his story about his guitar.
(72:41): Hey, Hey, My My (Into The Black) (with Crazy Horse) Suwannee Park, Live Oak, FL – August 23rd, 1997 / Driveby (with Crazy Horse) Hamilton Warren Amphitheater, Sedona, AZ – October 22nd, 1994 / Alabama – Sweet Home Alabama (with the Gone With The Wind Orchestra) Bicentennial Park, Miami, FL – November 12th, 1977 / Windward Passage (with The Ducks) The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA – August 22nd, 1977 / Touch The Night (with Crazy Horse) The Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, GA – October 22nd, 1986 / Powderfinger (Neil Young & His Electric Band) Le Théâtre de Plein Air, Colmar, France – August 15th, 2008 / No More (with The Lost Dogs) Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW, Australia – April 18th, 1989 / Cocaine Eyes (with Frank Sampedro and Ben Keith) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – December 13th, 1989 / Words (with The Friends And Relatives) Coors Amphitheater, Chula Vista, CA – September 25th, 2000 / My, My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) (solo) Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – May 24th, 2010
The ninth disc in Decades continues with songs written and / or performed in the late seventies starting with a great performance of ”Hey, Hey, My My (Out Of The Blue)” taken from the HORDE Festival played in Florida and is followed by “Driveby.” The somber track was only ever played three times. It appeared in the Bridge School Benefit shows and the Verde Valley Benefit in Sedona in 1994.
A rare performance of “Alabama” from 1977 follows. Taken from a benefit for Miami’s Children’s Hospital on November 12th, 1977, it’s Young’s only concert with The Gone With The Wind Orchestra containing the band that recordedComes A Time. Young throws in a short reference to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in the middle. Three weeks after the plane crash killing Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray, it is a fitting tribute.
“Windward Passage” is another unreleased rarity. Played only three times, it is an eight and a half minute catchy instrumental played with The Ducks, one of the short-lived backing bands.
“Touch The Night” from 1986′s Landing On Water, “Cocaine Eyes” from 1989′sEldorado and “No More” from Freedom, also released in 1989, are all songs that were included in the live act for a short time and didn’t survive past the eighties. ”No More” in the most interesting tune of the three.
“Words,” the profound closer for Harvest, was played only once in the seventies, appearing in the 1973 show at the Cobo Hall in Detroit. It was raised from the dead in both 2000 and 2009, appearing in more than sixty shows. OMS include common live performances of “Powerderfinger” and “My, My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” at the end of the disc. The former is one of Young’s most popular rockers, and the latter is a powerful acoustic solo tune.
(77:12): Stupid Fucking Guy (with Crazy Horse) James L. Knight Center, Miami, FL – October 29th, 1986 / Drive Back (with Crazy Horse) James L. Knight Center, Miami, FL – October 29th, 1986 / Bad News Beat (with Crazy Horse) The Spectrum, Philaelphia, PA – September 17th, 1986 / Inca Queen (with Crazy Horse) The Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, GA – October 25th, 1986 / Sample And Hold (with Crazy Horse) The Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, GA – October 25th, 1986 / Opera Star (with Crazy Horse) James L. Knight Center, Miami, FL – October 29th, 1986 / Sixty And Zero (with The Bluenotes) Canadian Exhibition Grandstand, Toronto, ON, Canada – August 18th, 1988 / Southern Pacific (with The International Harvesters) Bayfront Center Arena, St. Petersburg, FL – September 17th, 1985 / Boxcar (with The Restless) Opera House, Spokane, WA – February 23rd, 1989 / Road Of Plenty (with Crazy Horse) James L. Knight Center, Miami, FL – October 29th, 1986 / Ordinary People (with The Bluenotes) Poplar Music Theater, Hoffman Estates, IL – August 16th, 1988
Decades 10 is similar in theme to the preceding disc except the focus is upon the latter Geffen years in the eighties. The decade was a time when older artists made attempts to incorporate the popular synth-pop into their already established sounds. Although Young made some attempts in that direction (such as the quickly disowned Trans in 1982), he largely kept to his own oddball muse with varying commercial results.
Decades ten begins with “Stupid Fucking Guy” and “Drive Back” from the October 29th, 1986 show in Miami, Florida. During the Live In A Rusted Out Garage tour in 1986 Young would play a recordings of Sam Kinison and his mother telephoning him. Meant to be a bit of comic relief, Kinison’s is typically profanity laced and was actually bleeped on the FM simulcast on the Pay-Per-View telecast of the final night of the tour in Daly City, California.
“Bad News Beat” from Landing On Water, it was only played the first week of the tour before being dropped forever. The Philadephia show is an excellent stereo audience recording. A great recording of “Inca Queen” follows. Included on the 1987 album Life, it was introduced a year before. The acoustic guitar contrasting with the jungle drums create a unique atmosphere for one of Young’s most intriguing songs.
Other interesting tracks on this disc include a full 20 minute version of “Sixty And Zero,” the full version of what would be recorded later as “Crime In The City” onFreedom, “Boxcar” which would be released twenty years later on Chrome Dreams II, and “Road Of Plenty,” and early arrangement of “Eldorado.” The final track is a full band electric arrangement of “Ordinary People” whose acoustic cousin appears on disc five.
(76:20): Don’t Cry No Tears (with Crazy Horse) Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA – January 10th, 2001 / Love And Only Love (with Crazy Horse) Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA – January 10th, 2001 / Over And Over (with Crazy Horse) The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA – November 13th, 1990 / Don’t Spook The Horse (with Crazy Horse) late show at Portland Meadows, Portland, OR – July 13th, 1997 / Like A Hurricane (with Crazy Horse) The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – October 24th, 1978 / Cortez The Killer (with Crazy Horse) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – June 21st, 2001 / Cinnamon Girl (with Crazy Horse) The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – November 4th, 1976
Decades 11 is another OMS celebration of Neil Young’s fuzz tone. For more than an hour this disc covers several of Young’s well known electric guitar epic tunes played in their most extreme manner (whatever that may be). The disc starts off with ”Don’t Cry No Tears” and “Love And Only Love” from the January 10th, 2001 show in the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. This show was the first of two warm up gigs and his first with Crazy Horse since the 1997 Horde Festival.
Both of the songs are quite common live, but at this show “Don’t Cry No Tears” was played for the first time in five years and “Love And Only Love” in eleven. Following is ”Over And Over” from Ragged Glory. It is taken from the Catalyst Club show on November 13th, 1990, one of only four times it has been played live.
“Don’t Spook The Horse” is another relative rarity. Taken from the rare ”Mansion On The Hill” CD single, this strange tune was only played three times on the 1997 Horde Festival.
The disc ends with three very common tunes. ”Like A Hurricane” is taken from the October 24th, 1978 show at the Los Angeles Forum, the same tour that produced the live album Live Rust. The recording of the song on the official album is taken from the October 15th show in St. Paul, but this performance is just as potent. “Cortez The Killer” is taken from the June 21st, 2001 show in Rotterdam, and “Cinnamon Girl” is from the November 4th, 1976 show with Crazy Horse. The Zuma era produced some of the wildest versions of that song on tape.
(63:49): Days That Used To Be (with The Lost Dogs) Bunka Taiikukan, Yokohama, Japan – April 27th, 1989 / Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown (with Crazy Horse) Tea Party, Boston, MA – March 1st, 1970 / The Loner (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Wonderin’ (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Cinnamon Girl (with Crazy Horse) late show at Fillmore East, New York, NY – March 6th, 1970 / Winterlong (with Crazy Horse) Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970 / Down By the River (with Crazy Horse) late show at Fillmore East, New York, NY – March 6th, 1970 / Oh, Lonesome Me (with Crazy Horse) The Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA – February 28th, 1970 / Cowgirl In The Sand (with Crazy Horse) Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA – March 28th, 1970 / Announcement,Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH – February 25th, 1970
Decades 12 is an odd collection of songs. The first track, “Days That Used To Be,” is taken from the first show on the Japan tour in 1989. Recorded for Ragged Glory in a full band electric arrangement, this is a mellow acoustic solo number from early in the show.
After starting in the late eighties, the disc shifts and remains in 1970 for the next hour’s worth of music. The first is the Danny Whitten tune “come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown” with Crazy Horse taken from the March 1st show in Boston. It is a fair audience recording but a fantastic performance as the final song of the night. The entire recording, including a three song fragment from the soundboard, came out a decade ago on Boston Tea Party 1970 (Screamer-040/81019).
Many of the remaining songs come from the February 25th Cincinnati soundboard recording including ”The Loner,” “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” “Wonderin’” (the Crazy Horse rockabilly arrangement, not the Shocking Pinks doo wop version), “Winterlong” and the closing announcements (where the audience beg for an encore and the mc tell them the band are already past their contract). The entire show can be found onLive In Cincinnati 1970 (Waterface Records).
Two songs, “Cinnamon Girl” and a scintillating “Down By The River,” are labeled from the late show on March 6th at the Fillmore East in New York but that is incorrect. No tape is in circulation from that show, but there is an audience tape from the early show. ”Cinnamon Girl” is a soundboard recording taken from some other show (and era), and “Down By The River” is from a fair audience recording of the early show.
“Oh, Lomesome Me” is taken from a poor audience recording of the February 28th show in Philadelphia and a fifteen minute version of “Cowgirl In The Sand” from the final show of the short spring tour with Crazy Horse on March 28th in Santa Monica.
(79:02): Coastline (solo Trans) Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA – January 5th, 1983 / Mexico (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) Orpheum Theater, Boston, MA – December 6th, 2007 / Stringman (with Simon & Garfunkel) Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA – March 1st, 1993 / Try (with Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Ralph Molina, Anthony Crawford, Pegi Young) United Palace, New York, NY – December 16th, 2007 / Out Of My Mind (solo) late show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 27th, 1978 / Love In Mind (solo) Music Hall, Boston, MA – January 21st, 1971 / A Man Needs A Maid (solo) Music Hall, Boston, MA – January 21st, 1971 / Heart Of Gold (solo) Music Hall, Boston, MA – January 21st, 1971 / Journey Through The Past (with The Stray Gators) Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, ON, Canada – January 15th, 1973 / Intro – After The Gold Rush (with The Stray Gators) Convention Center, Louisville, KY – February 15th, 1973 / After The Gold Rush (with The Stray Gators) Convention Center, Louisville, KY – February 15th, 1973 / Dangerbird (solo) Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany – May 1st, 2003 / Homefires (solo) Orpheum Theater, Minneapolis, MN – November 22nd, 1992 / Love Art Blues (solo) Orpheum Theater, Minneapolis, MN – November 22nd, 1992 / Philadelphia (solo) Aerial Theater, Houston, TX – June 1st, 1999 / Campaigner (solo) Beacon Theater, New York, NY – February 18th, 1992 / Winterlong (with Frank Sampedro and Ben Keith) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – December 13th, 1989 / I Believe In You (solo) late show at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA – May 27th, 1978 / Someday (with Frank Sampedro and Ben Keith) Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands – December 13th, 1989 / This Note’s For You (with The Lost Dogs) Shi Kokaido, Nagoya, Japan – May 5th, 1989
The thirteenth disc is one of the longest and most diverse of the entire set. The tracks range from 1971 to 2007 and feature songs on acoustic guitar, grand piano, and full band electric onslaughts. Some of the tracks, especially at the beginning, are hopelessly rare and others are some of the most common and popular songs found in Young’s live sets.
It begins with a solo piano renditon of “Coastline.” Taken from 1980′s Hawks & Doves, it made one appearnce in the 1980 Berkeley benefit concert and three more in the early Trans tour in 1983. It is followed by the somber “Mexico,” a more recent song played four times in 2007 and 2008 but remains unreleased.
“Stringman,” a song written in the mid seventies but not released untilUnplugged in 1993, comes from a show Young did with Simon & Garfunkel and “Try” is another unreleased song played ten times in 2007 and 2008.
After a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Out Of Mind” dating from 1978 OMS include several tracks from the January 21st, 1971 show in Boston from theJourney Through The Past tour. It is notable for the strange melding of “A Man Needs A Maid” with several verses from “Heart Of Gold” thrown in the middle a year before it was released on Harvest.
The performance of “After The Goldrush” from the February 15th, 1973 show in Louisville is halted after a few lines because Young forgets the words. He starts the song again, but sings it in a higher key than the studio performance.
The live performance of “Campaigner” dates from a 1992 show in New York. Unlike the studio cut found earlier in the collection, Young sings about Ronald Reagan rather than Richard Nixon. It’s followed by a solo piano performance of “Winterlong,” much different than the Crazy Horse all band recording. The disc ends with “This Notes’ For You” played as a solo piano piece rather than the groovy all band version from the studio recording.
(76:37): Four Strong Winds (solo) Community Theater, Berkeley, CA – September 15th, 2004 / Forever Young (with The Grateful Dead) Golden Gate Park, Polo Fields, San Francisco, CA – November 3rd, 1991 / Walking To New Orleans (with The Prairie Wind Band) Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, IL – September 18th, 2005 / All You Need Is Love (with Crazy Horse) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 20th, 2001 / Blowin’ In The Wind (with Crazy Horse) Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC – February 28th, 1991 / Greensleeves (solo) The Bottom Line, New York, NY – May 15th, 1974 / All Along The Watchtower (with Pancho and The MG’s) Nürburgring, Eifel, Germany – May 18th, 2002 / Country Feedback (with REM) Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN – October 5th, 2004 / (Sitting On) The Dock By The Bay (with Booker T And The MG’s) Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA – June 13th, 1993 / A Day In The Life (Neil Young & His Electric Band) Hyde Park, London, England – June 27th, 2009 / Imagine (with Crazy Horse) Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA – October 20th, 2001
The fourteenth disc in the Decades box focuses upon the many cover tunes Neil Young has performed throughout his career. Young’s use of cover tunes was never as important as, say, Bob Dylan’s. And whereas Dylan would play covers as an acknowledgement of his source material, Young’s covers seem more of an acknowledgment of respect for a given artist. Most are taken from benefit concerts, and all but one tune is taken from shows in the past twenty years when Young entered the latter half of his career as an elder statesman of rock and roll.
A haunting version of “Four Strong Winds” is taken from a solo benefit performance in Berkeley in 2004. Young’s solo performance, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, is one of the most powerful performances contained in this set. His wife Pegi harmonizes throughout the piece. It was the final number of the main set that night and is followed by loud applause.
The following cover of Dylan’s “Forever Young” is taken from a soundboard recording of the Bill Graham Memorial Concert in San Francisco on November 3rd, 1991. Young had already played a set with CSN&Y, but he joined The Grateful Dead for a few numbers including this classic. It’s followed by a cover of Fats Domino’s “Walking To New Orleans” from the 2005 Farm Aid benefit.
Young covered The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” during the two Bridge Benefit gigs in 2001. They play a faithful cover including the Marseilles introduction.
The cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” is an exception. Unlike the others, it does not come from a benefit concert and Young gives his own feedback style arrangement. He gives melodramatic punctuations to the songs and receives a loud ovation in the second verse after singing: ”Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows / That too many people have died?” in response to the Gulf War which ended that day.
“Greensleeves” is the oldest tune on the disc, both in terms of composition and performance. Although it’s often cited as a medieval tune, the earliest reference is found in the late 16th century dating from the English renaissance. Young played the song only twice in his forty year career. The first, included on this disc, is from a show at The Bottom Line in New York in 1974. (The second is from the 1991 Bridge Benefit).
“All Along The Watchtower,” the third Dylan cover on the disc, is taken from the Rock am Ring Festival, Nürburgring, Germany on May 18th, 2002. And just like Dylan he plays a modified version of the Jimi Hendrix arrangement. Young adds more guitar and the MC5 add a strong Hammond in the mix.
“Country Feedback” is taken from the Vote For Change Benefit at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on October 5th, 2004. Joining REM, this is the third and final time he played this song after two previous performances at the 1998 Bridge Benefit. The sound quality of this recording is quite poor and hard to make out unfortunately.
The disc ends with his cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life.” This cover was the encore for every show from 2008 to 2009 and was introduced into the set after McCartney introduced it into his set that year. Unlike McCartney’s (or Jeff Beck’s instrumental version), Young’s is actually closest to the Sgt Pepper’s recording. But instead of the loud piano chord fading out, Young and the band engage in a collage of noise and feedback. OMS use an excellent recording of Young’s final performance of the song at Hyde Park in June, 2009.
The covers disc ends with an excellent recording of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Young covered the tune three times, all in 2001 as a response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th. The first performance was a telecast with members of Pearl Jam, and the second two were played at the Bridge School Benefit a month later. They play it as an instrumental but the audience sing along.
(78:50): Rockin’ In The Free World (with The Lost Dogs) Shi Kokaido, Nagoya, Japan – May 5th, 1989 / Looking Forward (solo) Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA – March 17th, 1999 / Old Man (with The Stray Gators) Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, ON, Canada – January 15th, 1973 / Hitchhiker (solo) Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany – April 30th, 2003 / Hitchhiker (solo) Hippodrome, Baltimore, MD – April 28th, 2011 / Love And War (solo) Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL – May 7th, 2011 / Peaceful Valley Boulevard (solo) Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL – May 7th, 2011 / You Never Call (solo) Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL – May 7th, 2011 / This Old Guitar (with The Prairie Wind Band) Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, IL – September 18th, 2005 / Distant Camera (solo) Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA – March 20th, 1999 / Big Time (with Crazy Horse) Suwannee Park, Live Oak, FL – August 23rd, 1997 / Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young & His Electric Band) Hyde Park, London, England – June 27th, 2009 / Complete Day (solo) Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, Denmark – February 28th, 2008
The fifteenth disc focuses upon more recent solo acoustic performances (with some exceptions of course). The two oldest tracks are the opening acoustic version of “Rockin’ In The Free World” from 1989 and an excellent version of “Old Man” from Toronto in 1973.
Included also are two versions of “Hitchhiker.” The first is a solo acoustic recording from 2003, predating it’s official release on Le Noise in 2010. The second is an electric performance comes from Baltimore on April 28th, 2011. The sound quality of the second version is quite poor.
The next three songs all date from the same show in Chicago on May 7th, 2011. Both “Love And War” and the haunting “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” are from Le Noise while “You Never Call” remains unreleased. These three tracks are the most recently recorded in the entire box set.
“This Old Guitar” is a great down home folky performance with his wife Pegi taken from the Farm Aid benefit. Two more electric tunes close the disc, “Big Time” and “Rockin’ In The Free World.” The final track labeled “Complete Day” is a short interlude from the February 28th, 2008 show in Copenhagen where Young responds to some hecklers demanding he play old songs. After ripping into them, he makes a comment about a complete day.
(79:35): Time Fades Away: Time Fades Away, Journey Through The Past, Yonder Stands The Sinner, L.A., Love In Mind, Don’t Be Denied, The Bridge, Last Dance. Where The Buffalo Roam: Buffalo Stomp (Neil Young with the Wild Bill Band of Strings) / Ode to Wild Bill #1 (Neil Young) /All Along the Watchtower (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) / Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Bill Murray) /Ode to Wild Bill #2 (Neil Young) /Papa Was a Rolling Stone (The Temptations) / Home On the Range (Neil Young) / Straight Answers Dialogue (Bill Murray) / Highway 61 (Bob Dylan) / I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) (Four Tops) /Ode to Wild Bill #3 With Dialogue (Neil Young) / Keep On Chooglin’ (Creedence Clearwater Revival) / Ode to Wild Bill #4 (Neil Young) / Purple Haze (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) / Buffalo Stomp Refrain (Neil Young with the Wild Bill Band of Strings)
The bonus disc contains two rarities. The first part of the disc has the rare 1973 LP Time Fades Away. Part of the ditch period, it was meant for CD release in 1996 but was inexplicably cancelled. There have been many very good unofficial needle drops of the LP. Perhaps the best is the no label Time Fades Away from 2007 which not only has the LP but the rare single “Last Trip To Tulsa.”
Decades doesn’t have the single. However, it is still great sounding.
The first song “Time Fades Away” comes from the March 1st show at The Myriad in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This ballad of drug addiction has a vague narrative with “fourteen junkies / too weak to work” being reduced in the final verse to “thirteen junkies.” Did the one escape, or did he die?
“Journey Through The Past” comes from the February 11th, 1973 show in Cleveland. The performance features Young alone at the piano and was played on the solo tour two years before. “Yonder Stands The Sinner” was recorded on March 17th, 1973 in Seattle and features Crosby and Nash on backing vocals. The band punctuates the self-accusatory lyrics with howls and Young himself shouts out “SINNER!!” in the songs final verse.
“L.A.” is taken from the same show as the title track on the album. “Don’t Be Denied” was recorded on March 28 in Phoenix and again features Crosby and Nash on background vocals. This cynical autobiography was also a regular inclusion on the Trans tour in 1983.
“The Bridge” is a pretty piano based ballad written about the same time as “Journey Through The Past.” The song, which gave the name to Young’s school in California, was played only three times. The first was on February 27th, 1971 and the final is this one on April 1st, 1973 in Sacramento. It is a rare upbeat song and serves as an uplifting prelude to the finale song on the album.
“Last Dance” dates from the March 29th show in San Diego recalls the daily hassles of repetitive jobs answered by a coda that contains repetitive “no’s” chanted over a constant back riff. With Crosby and Nash on backing vocals, it is a tour-de-force reaching almost nine minutes long.
The latter half of the bonus CD is the rare Where The Buffalo Roam film soundtrack. The LP was released in 1980 when the movie came out but hasn’t been seen since and has never been pressed onto CD. Young’s contribution to the soundtrack includes various reiterations of the title tune sung with harmonica.
Also included are various non-Young songs such as “Keep On Chooglin’,” “Purple Haze” and clips from the soundtrack featuring Bill Murray. The disc is nothing revelatory. It is a strange movie with strange music, but it is good to have this as a bonus for Neil Young completists.
The bonus DVD contains the complete Journey Through The Past film. Directed by Neil Young himself, it was released in 1972 to poor reviews and remained unreleased until its inclusion in 2009 in the Neil Young Archives. OMS include a direct copy of the official release, complete with menus.
It is a strange documentary without much focus or purpose, filmed on the premise that the rock star life is inherently interesting and worth seeing on celluloid. Instead of being a compelling slice of cinema verité, it comes off as a major ego boost for the artist and is quite difficult to sit through. The crusaders on the beach were fun to watch (reminded me of parts of Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same), but ultimately this journey through the past is no more than a curious relic.
Decades comes packaged in a box with a removable top and each disc is in its individual sleeve with tracklisting on the back. A thick booklet is included with an essay and detailed liner notes describing each track. It is one of the biggest and most comprehensive collections ever produced of any artist whose appeal is aimed at the dedicated Neil Young collector.