Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Live At The Cellar Door (2013)


Review This is a great reminder (if we needed one) of just what a fine songwriter Neil Young is. The album is a recording of some solo sets he did in 1970 and they are very good indeed. I had the great good fortune to receive an advance copy of this album, I have played it a lot and the more I play it, the better it gets.

This is the young (sorry) Neil Young with just his guitar and a piano performing some great material like After The Goldrush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Old Man and others. They are really good, heartfelt performances which in these stripped-down versions often have tremendous emotional power. Don’t Let It Bring You Down, for example, really packs an emotional punch for me – perhaps even more than the studio version does. The wonderful chord structures combined with Young’s distinctive, ætherial, almost falsetto vocal give it a fabulous, spare beauty and the same is true of many of the other songs here.

The sound quality is excellent and the choice of material is very well balanced, I think. It’s hard to get the balance right on a live album between failing to capture enough of the live atmosphere and having so much chat that it becomes tedious on repeated listening, but the producers here have judged it impeccably. There is very little of Neil Young speaking throughout most of the album – generally just a brief introduction to each song, which is exactly enough to give a feel of the live performance without interfering with the music. (And as an aside, although I know this is from 1970, it still brought me up short to hear Only Love Can Break Your Heart introduced as “a song from my new album”.) The one exception is a longish, good humoured chat before the last track, Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, and here it is good to get a flavour of the man himself. It is excellently done.

I’m delighted to be able to give this album a rave review. It deserves it, which – let’s face it – cannot be said of all Neil Young’s work. This, though is among his best which means that it is very good indeed. Don’t look for the Crazy-Horse-driven power which made Psychedelic Pill so brilliant last year, for example; this is no less powerful but in that more quietly thoughtful, contemplative Neil Young way. It’s an excellent album of great songs, beautifully performed and recorded. Warmly recommended.

Review This is an wonderfully beautiful live offering from Neil Young – an early offering from the After The Gold Rush days live at The Cellar Door in Washington D.C in late 1970 – it’s a solo performance – just Neil with his guitar and piano.. I live in the area and used to go to The Cellar Door years ago…and it was always one of my favorite venues for a performance – small, intimate and very personal…and that’s what this CD offers – an intimate and very personal concert with Neil doing some of his finest solo work and some real gems from his Buffalo Springfield days – boy, I wish I had seen this show, it would’ve been one for the ages……….

There are several tracks on this – like Expecting To Fly, Birds, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, and I Am a Child – that will send shivers up your back – If there wasn’t the polite and subdued applause at the end of each track, this could easily pass for a studio recording. The folks in attendance here got a very special treat from Neil. I really like the version of Old Man on this as well – there’s just a lot to like on this. This is one of those CD’s that when you’ve finished listening to it…you queue it up again because there’s nothing else that can follow that fits….

I’m usually reluctant to buy Neil’s live stuff – he can tend to get a little sloppy, but that’s Neil and it’s not been a problem for most Neil Young fans – this is NOT one bit sloppy, Neil’s voice is strong and clear….lush, rich and beautifully mixed and edited, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a better live performance by Neil. I am wonderfully glad I bought this CD.

The only tracks that I wish had either been done differently or just replaced with different tracks would be Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River – the originals were pretty rocking cuts, but here he tones it down and does a pure acoustic version of each – and I prefer the more rocking version – but that’s just my opinion and you may find it suits your tastes well.

If you are a Neil Young fan, this will not disappoint….boy, I wish I had seen this one….

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live At The Cellar Door | | Leave a comment