Photographers: Ben Johnson ; Wim Van Der Linden; Toshi Onuki; Joel Bernstein.
Bob Dylan once famously remarked about hearing Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" on the radio that he knew his days as the man of the hour were numbered. Fact is, Young is the only guy who can even reasonably compete with Dylan for the title of rock's greatest songwriter, and while "Dylan in the '60s" has long been a cliched assessment of an undeniable rock hot streak, so too has become "Neil Young in the '70s." While Dylan has long culled material from his archive, Young has been reluctant to do the same. He's now joining the fray full force with LIVE AT MASSEY HALL 1971--the second live release in an ongoing series from Young's legendarily deep vaults.
The performance comes between the release of AFTER THE GOLDRUSH and HARVEST and hot on the heels of DEJA VU, basically the last time Young's eminently enthralling man-child persona of "I Am A Child" and "Helpless" held sway over the obstinate, electric crank of TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT and RUST NEVER SLEEPS. The set is pure magic. Young still seems humble and shy, a guy who stumbled across an incredible gift for melody but possessed the worldliness to let his awkward talent breathe and warble as it was meant to.
Familiar songs have drastically different readings: the subdued "A Man Needs A Maid" comes off here as more of a cry for help than the potentially chauvinistic enigma on HARVEST and seeps perfectly into "Heart of Gold;" while the normally heavy "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Ohio" are remade as acoustic dirges. The true treasures, however, are the never-released gems "Bad Fog of Loneliness" and "Dance Dance Dance," a song--with its lyrics of love and rainbows--that foregrounds Young's latent whimsy and sets up "I Am A Child" as the perfect closer for this disc. A must for fans of Young, '70s singer-songwriters, and rock in general, LIVE AT MASSEY HALL 1971 perfectly captures the moment just before Dylan's prophecy came true and Young took over pop music.
Rolling Stone (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]here is a striking vigor to Young's high, eccentric singing -- and a surprising nostalgia in the fond references to his homeland in 'Helpless'..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.68) - "[Some tracks] benefit from the simplicity of the setting: 'A Man Needs a Maid', for one, comes to life without all of the studio version's orchestral gloop."
No Depression (p.104) - "The brief but pointed renditions of 'Cowgirl In The Sand' and 'Down By The River' included here have more emotional heft than the amped up, anthemic renditions on the Fillmore set."