March 29, 2007

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Neil Young, Live at Massey Hall
Reprise Records, 2007

Taped in 1971, this unplugged set finds Young flying solo and hence at his most vulnerable, but while the mikes zoom in with surgical fascination to catch any miniscule botch, they only glimpse concentration, awe-inspiring poise, and, ultimately, transcendence. It would have been gauche — worse, capitalist — in those days to release another live record while the dust was still settling from Four Way Street and Live at the Fillmore East, before the advents of remixes, maxi-singles and even colored vinyl collector-bait, thus its sudden appearance may reek of irony to cynics, but fans will be overcome. The Artist as a Young Guy shyly begs a fan not to snap pictures unless there’s a rhythm to it, but aside from that and chatting absently about his new ranch he has naught to say. “Ohio” comes and goes without any prescient Living With War editorial, although he does muzzle the guitar neck to bestow upon the line “found her dead on the ground” a fleeting moment of silence. The androgynyous-troubadour innocence of his voice’s character has never been so studiously captured. A+ Eric W. Saeger