Thursday, November 29, 2018


Who the heck is Judy? Judy Garland, of course. It comes from the rather stony story Young tells the crowd in the opening monologue from this, his latest live album in the ongoing Performance Series of concert collections. This one comes from his U.S  tour of November 1976, when he'd start the shows with seven to nine acoustic songs, then bring on Crazy Horse for the second set. The songs would change nightly, a mix of hits, album cuts and lots of unreleased tunes. It was a great tour for Neil watchers, with lots of revelations and obscurities.

On the tour was wunderkid journalist Cameron Crowe, and Young's photographer pal Joel Bernstein, who took it upon themselves to gather soundboard tapes of each night, and make a compilation tape of the best. Years later, they were called on again by Young to produce this little wonder, based on their experience of the tour. The result is one of the best of these history albums. It features 22 cuts, Young bouncing from guitar to piano to banjo to one crazy organ for A Man Needs A Maid. While he would dole out hits to soothe the savage beasts in the crowds, they were given no more importance than new, unknown numbers or deep cuts from the catalog.

The flashy news here is the first-ever release of No One Seems To Know, a song that has been featured on five different tours over the years, but never on an album. It's a good one, with a better melody than a lyric, but he had better ones up his sleeve to unveil. Several of the shows opened with Campaigner, a new song unveiled during the aborted Stills-Young Band tour earlier that year. It has that fantastic line, "Even Richard Nixon has got soul," which must have been a mind-blower to crowds back then. White Line is here, years before its appearance on his Ragged Glory album of 1990, with different lyrics. Too Far Gone wouldn't show up until 1989's Freedom, and might have been an instant classic if it had been on, say, Comes A Time. Love Is A Rose is played for the only the second time, and just once on the tour.

Young seemed to dig out cuts on a whim, with past tunes such as Mr. Soul, Journey Through The Past, The Losing End and Here We Are In The Years popping up beside hits and big favourites Heart Of Gold, Tell Me Why, The Needle And The Damage Done and After The Gold Rush. There are now lots of Neil Young live albums, and more to come he promises, but this one is home to the only live performances of several songs, thanks to his varying setlist. As for the performances, there are many instances of him stretching and trying out different deliveries, so that's another mark in the album's favour. Certainly there's been no shortage of releases from Young the last few years, but if you've been ignoring these historical albums, this is one not to miss.

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