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Neil Young Archives, Vol. I (1963-1972)

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Neil Young 6/2/2009

Review

Any project in the works for two decades is bound to generate its fair share of myths and so it is with Neil Young's Archives, a series of a multi-disc box sets chronicling Young's history. Originally envisioned in the late '80s as a Decade II, the project quickly mutated into a monster covering every little corner of Neil's career. With its escalation came delays, so many that it sometimes seemed that the project never really existed; it was just a shared fantasy between Neil and his faithful. During that long, long wait, fans held tight to the idea that Archives was a clearinghouse of rarities similar to Bob Dylan's The Bootleg Series, a treasure trove of unreleased songs and epochal live performances that would trump whatever bootleggers had to offer. While rare and unheard music is certainly a key part of Archives, particularly on the first disc covering the pre-history of 1963-1965, viewing this project as merely a CD box set is wildly misleading. Neil Young has designed Archives as nothing less than an immersive multimedia autobiography, an interactive experience where the music, text, video, and pictures feed off each other, creating a virtual journey through Neil's past. Because this is a biography, Archives, Vol. 1 winds up relying very heavily on previously released recordings, containing almost all of Neil Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, and Harvest, key Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young cuts, and the previously released archival live albums Live at the Fillmore East 1970 and Live at Massey Hall 1971. Such a large chunk of familiar material is bound to disappoint any listener expecting Archives to be a rarities-only set, forgetting that its origin was as a sequel to Decade, the triple-LP set that mixed up hits with unreleased tunes. Archives follows a similar blueprint, excavating many rare gems -- some, like "Bad Fog of Loneliness" quite familiar to bootleggers; some, like an extraordinary "Dance Dance Dance" cut with Graham Nash, not -- and placing them neatly alongside his well-known jewels, so the end effect isn't a rush of discovery but ongoing quiet revelation, an impression underpinned by the set's leisurely pace. The entire Archives is designed to trace Neil's evolution, to explain how his dead ends were really detours and how his mood swings weren't all that wild; it preserves Young's history as he perceived it. To that end, the DVD and especially BluRay editions of the set are essential to understanding both the project and Neil himself, so much so that the CD edition feels almost like an afterthought, a skimming of the surface of a deep lake. Often, Young delayed Archives due to the limits of technology, a claim that seemed no more than an excuse to keep the project incomplete, but Archives in its BluRay incarnation lives up to all of Neil's promises over the years, coming close to collecting everything -- lyrics, press, artwork, TV performances, doodles, scraps of every sort -- in one place, letting users linger for as long as they'd like in a specific era. Surely, the sound quality on BluRay is extraordinary -- the music leaps out of the speakers yet never sounds overly clean, digital, or modern -- but it's the interactive nature of the set that impresses most. While the DVD set also is complexly interactive, BluRay is designed to be continually updated via the Internet, so Young can add songs and videos whenever he wants, placing the new material as a virtual pushpin on each disc's time line. Acting as a supplement to the text biographies on each disc -- the biography only covering the years on the disc -- the time line places Young's evolution on a broader scale and is illuminated by this extra material, such as a downright thrilling CSNY performance of "Down by the River" on ABC-TV, but this is merely a teaser for the main event: the virtual filing cabinet, where every song on the set has its own folder bulging with handwritten lyrics, press clips, photos, snippets of in-concert introductions, alternate takes -- the list is almost endless and it's always different, so it's easy to flip back to a song and discover a bunch of information you missed the first time around. Add to this, there are an untold number of Easter eggs, sometimes housing the best stuff here, such as videos of Young combing through the archives and reminiscing in 1997, or a 15-minute film clip of Young discovering a CSNY bootleg while record shopping in the early '70s and then taking it from the store. This level of detail may suggest the one serious flaw in Archives: it cannot be taken casually. It demands complete, undivided attention, requiring users to dig as deep as they'd like, and it's no stretch to say that it could take a week or two to discover everything here. Also, the set comes so tantalizingly close to being complete, it's a major irritation to have one song lopped off of each the albums; surely, the extra storage space on DVD and BluRay could have allowed for complete runs of Everybody, Gold Rush, and Harvest. But really, these complaints feel churlish when faced with a box that is an embarrassment of riches, offering so much more than anybody could have imagined during that long, long wait. Not only was the wait worth it, Archives feels like it was 20 years in the making. It's an extraordinary work that redefines what an autobiography can be. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Aurora Neil Young 2:7
  3. 2 The Sultan Neil Young 2:33
  4. 3 I Wonder Neil Young 2:22
  5. 4 Mustang [Instrumental] Neil Young 2:23
  6. 5 I'll Love You Forever Neil Young 3:22
  7. 6 (I'm a Man and) I Can't Cry Neil Young 2:30
  8. 7 Hello Lonely Woman Neil Young 3:57
  9. 8 Casting Me Away From You Neil Young 2:13
  10. 9 There Goes My Babe Neil Young 2:23
  11. 10 Sugar Mountain [Demo] Neil Young 2:44
  12. 11 Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing [Demo] Neil Young 3:6
  13. 12 Runaround Babe Neil Young 2:39
  14. 13 The Ballad of Peggy Grover Neil Young 2:49
  15. 14 The Rent is Always Due Neil Young 2:55
  16. 15 Extra, Extra Neil Young 2:41
  17. 16 Flying On the Ground is Wrong Neil Young 3:8
  18. 17 Burned Neil Young 2:16
  19. 18 Out of My Mind Neil Young 3:4
  20. 19 Down, Down, Down Neil Young 2:11
  21. 20 Kahuna Sunset Neil Young 2:50
  22. 21 Mr. Soul Neil Young 2:44
  23. 22 Sell Out Neil Young 1:40
  24. 23 Down To the Wire Buffalo Springfield 2:28
  25. 24 Expecting To Fly Neil Young 3:45
  26. 25 Slowly Burning Neil Young 2:57
  27. 26 One More Sign Neil Young 2:2
  28. 27 Broken Arrow Neil Young 6:14
  29. 28 I Am a Child Neil Young 2:17
  30. 1 Everybody Knows This is Nowhere Neil Young 2:18
  31. 2 The Loner Neil Young 3:50
  32. 3 Birds Neil Young 2:18
  33. 4 What Did You Do To My Life? Neil Young 1:53
  34. 5 The Last Trip To Tulsa Neil Young 9:29
  35. 6 Here We Are In the Years Neil Young 3:15
  36. 7 I've Been Waiting For You Neil Young 2:27
  37. 8 The Old Laughing Lady Neil Young 5:58
  38. 9 I've Loved Her So Long Neil Young 2:41
  39. 10 Sugar Mountain Neil Young 6:15
  40. 11 Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing Neil Young 5:24
  41. 12 Down By the River Neil Young 9:19
  42. 13 Cowgirl In the Sand Neil Young 10:8
  43. 14 Everybody Knows This is Nowhere Neil Young 2:29
  44. 1 Emcee Intro/Sugar Mountain Intro Neil Young 1:18
  45. 2 Sugar Mountain Neil Young 5:34
  46. 3 Incredible Doctor Rap Neil Young 3:11
  47. 4 The Old Laughing Lady Neil Young 5:14
  48. 5 Audience Observation/Dope Song/Band Names Rap Neil Young 3:0
  49. 6 Flying On the Gound is Wrong Neil Young 3:58
  50. 7 On the Way Home Intro Neil Young 0:25
  51. 8 On the Way Home Neil Young 2:41
  52. 9 Set Break/Emcee Intro Neil Young 1:20
  53. 10 I've Loved Her So Long Neil Young 2:15
  54. 11 Allen a Dale Rap Neil Young 2:20
  55. 12 I Am a Child Neil Young 2:26
  56. 13 1956 Bubblegum Disaster Neil Young 2:5
  57. 14 The Last Trip To Tulsa Neil Young 9:25
  58. 15 Words Rap Neil Young 2:14
  59. 16 Broken Arrow Neil Young 4:39
  60. 17 Turn Down the Lights Rap Neil Young 0:53
  61. 18 Whiskey Boot Hill Neil Young 2:23
  62. 19 Expecting To Fly Intro Neil Young 0:54
  63. 20 Expecting To Fly Neil Young 2:55
  64. 1 Cinnamon Girl Neil Young 2:59
  65. 2 Running Dry (Requiem For the Rockets) Neil Young 5:34
  66. 3 Round and Round (It Won't Be Long) Neil Young 5:53
  67. 4 Oh Lonesome Me Neil Young 3:58
  68. 5 Birds Neil Young 2:14
  69. 6 Everybody's Alone Neil Young 2:29
  70. 7 I Believe In You Neil Young 3:26
  71. 8 Sea of Madness Neil Young 3:16
  72. 9 Dance, Dance, Dance Neil Young 2:27
  73. 10 Country Girl: Whiskey Boot Hill/Down, Down, Down/Country Girl (I Think You're Pretty) Neil Young 5:8
  74. 11 Helpless Neil Young 3:45
  75. 12 It Might Have Been Neil Young 4:17
  76. 1 Everybody Knows This is Nowhere Neil Young 2:28
  77. 2 Winterlong Neil Young 3:41
  78. 3 Down By the River Neil Young 9:16
  79. 4 Wonderin' Neil Young 3:35
  80. 5 Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown Neil Young 3:52
  81. 6 Cowgirl In the Sand Neil Young 10:5
  82. 1 Tell Me Why Neil Young 3:0
  83. 2 After the Gold Rush Neil Young 3:45
  84. 3 Only Love Can Break Your Heart Neil Young 3:11
  85. 4 Wonderin' Neil Young 2:10
  86. 5 Don't Let It Bring You Down Neil Young 2:59
  87. 6 Cripple Creek Ferry Neil Young 1:34
  88. 7 Southern Man Neil Young 5:31
  89. 8 Till the Morning Comes Neil Young 1:16
  90. 9 When You Dance, I Can Really Love Neil Young 3:44
  91. 10 Ohio Neil Young 3:2
  92. 11 Only Love Can Break Your Heart Neil Young 3:7
  93. 12 Tell Me Why Neil Young 2:57
  94. 13 Music is Love Neil Young 3:19
  95. 14 See the Sky About To Rain Neil Young 3:55
  96. 1 On the Way Home Neil Young 3:42
  97. 2 Tell Me Why Neil Young 2:29
  98. 3 Old Man Neil Young 4:57
  99. 4 Journey Through the Past Neil Young 2:20
  100. 5 Helpless Neil Young 4:15
  101. 6 Love In Mind Neil Young 2:48
  102. 7 A Man Needs a Maid/Heart of Gold (Suite) Neil Young 6:38
  103. 8 Cowgirl In the Sand Neil Young 3:45
  104. 9 Don't Let It Bring You Down Neil Young 2:56
  105. 10 There's a World Neil Young 3:34
  106. 11 Bad Fog of Loneliness Neil Young 3:27
  107. 12 The Needle and the Damage Done Neil Young 2:10
  108. 13 Ohio Neil Young 3:40
  109. 14 See the Sky About To Rain Neil Young 4:5
  110. 15 Down By the River Neil Young 4:8
  111. 16 Dance, Dance, Dance Neil Young 5:48
  112. 17 I Am a Child Neil Young 3:19
  113. 1 Heart of Gold Neil Young 3:51
  114. 2 The Needle and the Damage Done Neil Young 2:12
  115. 3 Bad Fog of Loneliness Neil Young 1:54
  116. 4 Old Man Neil Young 3:21
  117. 5 Heart of Gold Neil Young 3:8
  118. 6 Dance, Dance, Dance Neil Young 2:17
  119. 7 A Man Needs a Maid [Mix] Neil Young 4:13
  120. 8 Harvest Neil Young 3:8
  121. 9 Journey Through the Past Neil Young 2:23
  122. 10 Are You Ready For the Country? Neil Young 3:20
  123. 11 Alabama Neil Young 4:2
  124. 12 Words (Between the Lines of Age) Neil Young 15:55
  125. 13 Soldier Neil Young 3:22
  126. 14 War Song Neil Young 3:28

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