This week Neil Young announced the impending release of the “lost” Hitchhiker album, recorded in 1976 but never released. It’s the latest from the Young archives. Wind Back Wednesday goes back to 2007 when Young plucked from that archive a hitherto unreleased 1971 live show. Double historical dipping!.
Live At Massey Hall 1971 (Warner)
It may be strange to say that a concert which has been bootlegged for 30 years (but never with this sonic quality), from a man who has released scores of studio and live albums has revelations.
And it may be stranger still to say that such a belatedly released album is one of the standout albums of this week, this month, this year.
Strange, but true. Neil Young's reedy - some less charitable would say whiny - voice alone on stage is simultaneously the loneliest and the most inviting thing.
Here, with nowt but a guitar or a piano to accompany him, he plays a show of such intimacy that you imagine the Massey Hall is the size of a terrace house living room and Young is sitting on your batted second-hand couch. And you don't want him to leave.
Young (sounding a little, ahem, self medicated) says at the beginning of the stately piano-and-voice Journey Through The Past, "I'm going to sing mostly new songs tonight … I've written so many new ones that I can't think of anything else to do with them other than sing".
He is being rather disingenuous of course given his notorious impatience with even the suggestion of standing still, whether it is songwriting styles, albums or performance.
You don't need to go much further than the first two albums in this archive release program to see that, with the Live At The Fillmore East concert Young released last year being him and his favoured sidemen, Crazy Horse, plugged in and in overdrive while … Massey Hall is its polar opposite.
Such an approach can be both a boon and a bugbear for fans of course. In this case, it's all rewards. The concert is dominated by songs which would appear on 1972's Harvest and later albums (and some which would rarely be seen again) with some fascinating throwbacks.
There's a radically different take on a song he had originally recorded with Buffalo Springfield,On The Way Home, alongside a nascent Heart Of Gold, not yet finished and here appended to the borderline misogyny of A Man Needs A Maid. There's a version of Old Man which seems more suffused with weariness than the more famous studio version and an emotionally chilled Down By The River. And others which stir your heart like Love In Mind.
This was a great show because the songs and Young opened up before you. That it's 36 years old matters not at all.