Neil Young: Live At The Cellar Door features 13 solo performances
The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., was the kind of music venue that musicians loved to play because people actually went there to listen.
It was a small, intimate venue, one in which the audience was never that far removed from the artist.
Think first row, feet on the stage kind of place.
Despite its small size, some of the biggest names in pop, jazz, blues, folk and bluegrass played there between 1965 and 1981.
One of those artists was singer-songwriter Neil Young.
Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, 1970, Young, who had only recently released his third solo album, After The Gold Rush, played a six-show engagement there.
Highlights from that stand some 40-plus years ago now comprise the latest installment in Young’s Archives Performance Series.
Neil Young: Live At The Cellar Door features 13 solo performances from those shows.
Of those songs, five were from After The Gold Rush, including sterling versions of Only Love Can Break Your Heart, After The Gold Rush and Tell Me Why.
The set also features Young standards like Old Man, Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River.
The version of Cinnamon Girl is particularly interesting because Young opted to set his guitar down for this one and play it on the piano instead.
It was the first time he’d done that for this song.
There’s also an extended version here of Flying On the Ground Is Wrong, which Young had recorded with his old band, Buffalo Springfield, and which The Guess Who had also recorded.
It’s a little strange at the outset because Young gets very chatty with the audience about the inspiration for the song, which was dope.
But once the chatter is dispersed with, it’s actually a very charming version of the song.
There’s also a recording of the seldom-heard Bad Fog of Loneliness, a track which also made it onto his Live at Massey Hall ’71 recording, released in 2007.
As stated already, this is a solo performance, with Young playing just acoustic guitar and piano — no side players, no backing vocalists. It’s all Neil, all the time, and it’s prime stuff.
This is an extraordinarily fine effort from an artist captured during an exceptionally creative period in his career.
Hardcore Young fans will want to have a copy of this one in their library, even if they managed to track down some of this material from other less legitimate sources.
(Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.)
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments at email@example.com or 629-6000, ext. 6057.