With many of us still digesting Archives Vol. 1, Neil Young released Dreamin’ Man Live ’92 just in time for Christmas. It’s labeled #12 in his “Performance Series,” which so far has unearthed the long sought-after 1968 Canterbury House tape, a 1969 Riverboat coffee house show, and essential Fillmore East 1970 and Massey Hall 1971 concerts. To question why Young is now suddenly jumping ahead to the ‘90s, and especially focusing on (in my opinion) the vastly overrated Harvest Moon album, would be entirely futile. Every Neil fan knows this. But since the Canterbury House CD is labeled “00” in the series, it means there’s eight more releases to go to fill in the gap. It seems appropriate at this moment, then, to give Neil some friendly advice about what should come next. Here’s what I’d like to hear:
04 The “Alternate” Time Fades Away – After the 1971 solo tour, perfectly captured on the Massey Hall CD, Young didn’t tour again until the start of 1973 when sales of Harvest were still strong. This was his first venture into the world of arena rock as a solo artist, and the Time Fades Away LP was a compilation of new songs drawn from several dates. Young has notoriously held back releasing it on CD, and it’s reasonable to think it will be part of the eventual Archives Vol. 2 package. However, there’s no reason why more of the tour can’t be represented. My personal favourite shows are from the west coast leg when Crosby & Nash joined the Stray Gators. It would be ideal if a pristine recording from Bakersfield on March 11 or Winterland in San Francisco on March 22 existed.
05 The Tonight’s The Night Tour – Like Bob Dylan and The Band’s tours of 1965-66, this was the moment when Young defiantly confronted his fans. Even Young’s manager, Elliott Roberts, didn’t back him on this (mis)adventure at the end of 1973, meaning the relative handful of shows often occurred in small, out of the way locales. No one had heard any of the material before, and reactions varied from bemusement to outright rage. The best recordings so far have emerged from the string of British dates. The recording from Bristol on Nov. 4 is particularly unhinged, although the commonly traded show from London’s Rainbow Theatre the following night is a more likely candidate for official release.
06 Bottom Line, May 16, 1974 – If there’s a safe bet among these suggestions, this show is it. A surprise club appearance in New York (following Ry Cooder), on the eve of a massive CSNY stadium tour, Young seemed to be purposefully dodging the hype by playing the yet-to-be-released On The Beach nearly in its entirety. These versions are stunning, as are unique performances of “Greensleeves,” “Long May You Run,” “Pardon My Heart,” and the ultra-rare “Pushed It Over The End.” This is Young at his most vulnerable.
07 “Enter Pancho”: Crazy Horse 1976 – The introduction of Frank “Pancho” Sampedro to the mix for the recording of Zuma ushered in a new era. His initiation came in two stages, the Japanese/European tour in spring ’76, and the U.S. jaunt in the fall. While a compilation culled from either of these legs would make a great release, the shows from Madison, Wisconsin on Nov. 14, Chicago on Nov. 15, and Boston on Nov. 22, are particularly prized for their overall ragged glory.
08 The Gone With The Wind Orchestra: Miami, Nov. 12, 1977 – This one should get a lot of consideration for future Archives too. A one-off performance to benefit Miami’s Children’s Hospital, this was Young’s only concert with the band that recorded Comes A Time. Although predictably a little rough around the edges, the set list is solid, highlighted by the otherwise unreleased “Lady Wingshot,” and the “Alabama/Sweet Home Alabama” medley in tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd – the plane crash had occurred only a few weeks earlier.
09 “Sponsored By Nobody” 1988 – Young’s tours throughout the ‘80s were hit-and-miss, but always innovative and enjoyable. The albums, while likewise often innovative, were rarely enjoyable. This Note’s For You was a failed experiment in r&b, but its tour was undeniably powerful considering how flat the songs came off in the studio. Much of this had to do with the songs that weren’t on the record: the epic “Ordinary People” (finally unveiled on Chrome Dreams II) and “Crime In The City,” soon to be drastically revised for inclusion on Freedom. Both displayed Young at his most caustic, and that simmering anger permeated the entire show I saw in Toronto, which culminated in a devastating version of “Tonight’s The Night.”
10 Young & The Restless: Tulsa, Jan. 13, 1989 – Remember “Rockin’ In The Free World” melting your television when Young played it on Saturday Night Live? He’d been working up to that during the preceding months with a new quartet anchored by the Bluenotes’s rhythm section. It’s almost sacrilege to think of him with any other band than Crazy Horse, but these shows that bookended the Eldorado EP are Young at his heaviest. The Tulsa show is the earliest circulating recording from the tour and it shows him reveling in the band’s raw power.
11 Rockin’ In The Free World: Jones Beach, NY June 14, 1989 – Yes, parts of this concert, featuring a guest appearance by Bruce Springsteen, have already been officially released, but it reveals an entirely different side of Young the solo performer. Fired by the still-current events unfolding at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, he literally tore into each song with conviction he’d never displayed before. It’s no surprise that Ragged Glory was the next logical step.