12.16.2008

Music: Neil Young and the Elusive Archives

by Vincent Lee

With the recent release of Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 many fans of Neil Young will once again begin to think of the long promised Archives project. Throughout Neil Young's career he has been known for writing and recording a wealth of material and releasing it when he felt like it. Such is the case with the prequel to last year's release Chrome Dreams II, the prequel still being under wraps. For the past decade or so Young has promised that many of these hidden gems would eventually be released in a package entitled The Archives. Recently, he has gone as far to explain the format for their delivery. Unfortunately, the actual Archives are still nowhere to be found.


The saga of The Archives is a rather long one that can be summarized by Young claiming their release was imminent, then delaying for another period of time because he did not feel the product was up to par. For most fans the level of frustration has finally reached the point of giving up. The most recent back and forth includes Young's fascination with getting blue-ray technology to work with his archival videos. Now, news of the pending release of The Archives is typically taken with a great grain of salt. The past few years has given hope to some. The performance series, (which includes the recently released Sugar Mountain) which some believe will be included in the first edition of The Archives, has shown off three of Young's best live performances, only previous available through bootlegs.

If one searches the internet hard enough there are a number of places where one can find well over four hours worth of unreleased material from Young. These bootlegs may be of rather poor quality, but they are worth seeking out until the actual Archives are released. The best of these compilations is the Archives Be Damned five-disc set. Encompassing the majority of Young's commercially unreleased work from 1970 till 2000, it features highlights such as the expanded and complete version of "Sixty to Zero," "Pushed it Over the End," and "Traces." However, Young has promised even more uncovered gems in the real Archives release. It is this kind of hope that keeps most fans still yearning.

Though the widely shared feeling of annoyance by fans of Young may seem rather justified, at this point it seems best to take what we can get. With Young, one of his best attributes has always been his ability to make decisions musically based solely on emotion. More often than not these proved to be the correct choices. Should The Archives never come out Young's legacy would remain intact to the widespread audience, but many hardcore fans still will be left wondering.

(The cover of Neil Young's Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 is from Reprise Records, a division of Warner Brothers Records. Young will conclude the North American leg of his world tour tonight, Dec. 16, with the second of two shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. To see the video for "Old Man" from Live at Massey Hall, part of the performance series, please check below.)









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