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Rock - Released December 3, 2013 | Reprise

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
In late 1970, Neil Young was coming down from a bustling stretch of touring with the immensely popular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and had just released his third solo album, After the Goldrush. That album, lodged between the jammy country rock of 1969's Crazy Horse-aided Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and the hushed, hermetic folk of 1972's Harvest, found an ethereal and otherworldly middle ground for Young's rapidly developing songwriting voice. Live at the Cellar Door finds a solo Young just a few months after the release of After the Goldrush, playing a six-show stint at the tiny Washington D.C. club, running through a set heavy on the relatively new material from Gold Rush, but also getting into songs that wouldn't see album release for a few more records yet. It would have been impossible to gauge at the time of the performance, but the set list of Live at the Cellar Door is a non-stop string of what would become some of Young's many timeless classics, punctuated by the sound of the unthinkably small audience clapping politely as he wove through 15 magical compositions on spare acoustic guitar and occasional piano. Not just heavy on highlights, this is a rare live recording that lacks any duds or missteps at all. Apart from near-perfect selections from After the Goldrush like its fever-dream title track, the heartbreaking "Birds," or the long look at growing up in "Tell Me Why," Young debuts future hit "Old Man" as well as the On the Beach piano dirge "See the Sky About to Rain." He also offers up a piano-only reading of "Cinnamon Girl," announcing "That's the first time I ever did that one on piano." Part of an ongoing archival series of key live dates from Young's massive career, Live at the Cellar Door includes snippets of the usual between-song banter, but a noticeably tired Young is more subdued even when making dry jokes. Sticking mostly to focused readings of his then-brand-new songs, he cultivates a somber mood, tapping into all the sorrow, wonder, and wistfulness of his early solo material as well as a few Buffalo Springfield tunes. These tracks feel much more like an album of alternate versions than a typical live recording. The intimacy and raw beauty of Live at the Cellar Door makes it not just a must for super fans, but a valuable companion piece to any of Young's early studio output. ~ Fred Thomas

Rock - Released September 1, 1977 | Reprise

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Neil Young's most popular album, Harvest benefited from the delay in its release (it took 18 months to complete due to Young's back injury), which whetted his audience's appetite, the disintegration of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Young's three erstwhile partners sang on the album, along with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor), and most of all, a hit single. "Heart of Gold," released a month before Harvest, was already in the Top 40 when the LP hit the stores, and it soon topped the charts. It's fair to say, too, that Young simply was all-pervasive by this time: "Heart of Gold" was succeeded at number one by "A Horse with No Name" by America, which was a Young soundalike record. But successful as Harvest was (and it was the best-selling album of 1972), it has suffered critically from reviewers who see it as an uneven album on which Young repeats himself. Certainly, Harvest employs a number of jarringly different styles. Much of it is country-tinged, with Young backed by a new group dubbed the Stray Gators who prominently feature steel guitarist Ben Keith, though there is also an acoustic track, a couple of electric guitar-drenched rock performances, and two songs on which Young is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: The mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love. Young is perhaps most explicit about this on the controversial "A Man Needs a Maid," which is often condemned as sexist by people judging it on the basis of its title. In fact, the song contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help, and it contains some of Young's most autobiographical writing. Unfortunately, like "There's a World," the song is engulfed in a portentous orchestration. Over and over, Young sings of the need for love in such songs as "Out on the Weekend," "Heart of Gold," and "Old Man" (a Top 40 hit), and the songs are unusually melodic and accessible. The rock numbers, "Are You Ready for the Country" and "Alabama," are in Young's familiar style and unremarkable, and "There's a World" and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" are the most ponderous and overdone Young songs since "The Last Trip to Tulsa." But the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend's descent into heroin addiction, "The Needle and the Damage Done," remain among Young's most affecting and memorable songs. ~ William Ruhlmann

Rock - Released August 31, 1970 | Reprise

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In the 15 months between the release of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, Neil Young issued a series of recordings in different styles that could have prepared his listeners for the differences between the two LPs. His two compositions on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu, "Helpless" and "Country Girl," returned him to the folk and country styles he had pursued before delving into the hard rock of Everybody Knows; two other singles, "Sugar Mountain" and "Oh, Lonesome Me," also emphasized those roots. But "Ohio," a CSNY single, rocked as hard as anything on the second album. After the Gold Rush was recorded with the aid of Nils Lofgren, a 17-year-old unknown whose piano was a major instrument, turning one of the few real rockers, "Southern Man" (which had unsparing protest lyrics typical of Phil Ochs), into a more stately effort than anything on the previous album and giving a classic tone to the title track, a mystical ballad that featured some of Young's most imaginative lyrics and became one of his most memorable songs. But much of After the Gold Rush consisted of country-folk love songs, which consolidated the audience Young had earned through his tours and recordings with CSNY; its dark yet hopeful tone matched the tenor of the times in 1970, making it one of the definitive singer/songwriter albums, and it has remained among Young's major achievements. ~ William Ruhlmann

Rock - Released September 24, 2010 | Warner Brothers - Reprise

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The old conventional wisdom on Neil Young used to be that he alternated between acoustic folk and full-on guitar skronk with every other album, but 2010’s Le Noise -- the French affection in its title a tongue-in-cheek tip of the beret to his producer Daniel Lanois -- melds the two extremes. At its core, it’s a singer/songwriter album, a collection of reflections and ruminations about life and loss in the modern world, war imagery rubbing against battered memories and tattered autobiography, the songs leisurely following their own winding path, but it’s produced loudly, with Neil supporting himself with only his electric guitar for all but two tracks, where he switches the Les Paul for an acoustic. He’s not in Crazy Horse mode, spitting out chunky garage rock riffs, but strumming his overdriven electric, with Lanois tweaking the results, accentuating the ambience in post-production. To say the least, this results in a distinctive album, but it plays differently than it reads, sounding not too dissimilar from the Bush-era laments of Freedom. If Le Noise isn’t as galvanizing as Freedom, it’s because it’s created on a considerably smaller scale, its eight songs containing no masterpieces and Lanois’ moody noir production reining in Young’s messy signature. So, Le Noise winds up as something elusive and intriguing, a minor mood piece that seems to promise more than it actually delivers. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Rock - Released November 4, 2016 | Reprise

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Rock - Released June 26, 2015 | Reprise

Video Distinctions 4F de Télérama

Rock - Released October 26, 2012 | Reprise

As it turns out, the lumbering Americana was merely an amateurish rehearsal for the reuniting Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Just a handful of months after that collection of schoolhouse folk tunes, the band released the mammoth Psychedelic Pill, Neil's first-ever studio double-LP. It's not just the album itself that sprawls: Young rides Crazy Horse through long, long songs, kicking off the proceedings with the 27-minute "Driftin' Back," a song that makes the nearly 17-minute "Ramada Inn" and 16:30 "Walk Like a Giant" look comparatively svelte. No matter how many three-minute palate cleansers surround these monoliths, there's no getting around the fact that these overdriven, overlong jams are a way of separating the men from the boys, leaving behind only those with the strength to stomach such a large, undiluted dose of the Horse. Fortunately, the band is sounding much more limber than it did on Americana, where it seemed like the group members were picking up their instruments for the first time in a decade, so they can keep things moderately enchanting as the rock rolls out with no end in sight. That heavy, churning, perpetual motion is what's unique about Young & Crazy Horse, and Psychedelic Pill provides an abundance of it, but this feels different than their skronk-fests of the past, lacking the ballast of Ragged Glory, the sinew of Rust Never Sleeps, or the crackling, kinetic energy of Arc Weld or Live Rust. Instead, this is the sound of a veteran band settling into their familiar frayed clothes, doing precisely what they do best and nothing more. An air of tempered nostalgia permeates the album, evident not only in the unapologetic '70s grind of the band but in Young's lyrics, which fuzzily rhapsodize about "Drifting Back" and the first time he heard "Like a Rolling Stone." Unlike Dylan -- or many other of his baby boomer peers -- Young sounds like a defiant old coot pining for his past, which makes Psychedelic Pill yet another oddity in a catalog filled with them: it's noise rock as comfort food. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released March 13, 2007 | Reprise

Booklet + Videos
The second volume of Neil Young's long-promised, suddenly thriving Archives series is Live at Massey Hall, preserving a 1971 acoustic show at the Toronto venue. Where the first volume captured a portion of Neil's past that wasn't particularly well documented on record -- namely, the rampaging original Crazy Horse lineup in its 1970 prime -- this second installment may seem to cover familiar ground, at least to the outside observer who may assume that any solo acoustic Young must sound the same. That, of course, is not the case with an artist as mercurial and willful as Young, who was inarguably on a roll in 1971, coming off successes with Crazy Horse, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and his second solo record, 1970's After the Gold Rush. The concert chronicled on Live at Massey Hall finds Neil dipping into these recent successes for material, as he also airs material that would shortly find a home on 1972's Harvest in addition to playing songs that wouldn't surface until later in the decade -- "Journey Through the Past" and "Love in Mind" wound up on 1973's Time Fades Away, "See the Sky About to Rain" showed up on 1974's On the Beach -- and then there's two songs that never showed up on an official Neil Young album: the stomping hoedown "Dance Dance Dance," which he gave to Crazy Horse, and "Bad Fog of Loneliness," which gets its first release here. This is a remarkably rich set of songs, touching on nearly every aspect of Young's personality, whether it's his sweetness, his sensitivity, his loneliness, or even his often-neglected sense of fun. True, the latter only appears on "Dance Dance Dance," but that comes as a welcome contrast to the stark sadness of "See the Sky About to Rain." But even if "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" retain their intense sense of menace when stripped of the winding guitar workouts of Crazy Horse, this concert isn't dominated by melancholy: it's a warm, giving affair, built upon lovely readings of "Helpless," "Tell Me Why," "Old Man," and an early incarnation of "A Man Needs a Maid" (here played as a medley with "Heart of Gold") that removes the bombast of the Harvest arrangement, revealing the fragile, sweet song that lies underneath. While this concert isn't as freewheeling and rich as Young's studio albums of the early '70s -- each record had a distinctive character different from its predecessor, thanks in part to producer David Briggs, arranger/pianist Jack Nitzsche, and Young's supporting musicians, including Crazy Horse or the Stray Gators -- it nevertheless captures the essence of Neil Young the singer and songwriter at his artistic peak. That's the reason why this concert has been a legendary bootleg for nearly four decades and why its release 36 years after its recording is so special: it may not add an additional narrative to Neil Young's history, but it adds detail, color, and texture to a familiar chapter of his career, rendering it fresh once more. No wonder Briggs wanted to release this concert as an album between After the Gold Rush and Harvest: it not only holds its own against those classics, it enhances them. [Live at Massey Hall was also released as a two-disc set that contained a CD of the show and a DVD containing the same concert in high fidelity audio.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released September 1, 1977 | Reprise

Neil Young's second solo album, released only four months after his first, was nearly a total rejection of that polished effort. Though a couple of songs, "Round Round (It Won't Be Long)" and "The Losing End (When You're On)," shared that album's country-folk style, they were altogether livelier and more assured. The difference was that, while Neil Young was a solo effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere marked the beginning of Young's recording association with Crazy Horse, the trio of Danny Whitten (guitar), Ralph Molina (drums), and Billy Talbot (bass) that Young had drawn from the struggling local Los Angeles group the Rockets. With them, Young quickly cut a set of loose, guitar-heavy rock songs -- "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" -- that redefined him as a rock & roll artist. The songs were deliberately underwritten and sketchy as compositions, their lyrics more suggestive than complete, but that made them useful as frames on which to hang the extended improvisations ("River" and "Cowgirl" were each in the nine-to-ten-minute range) Young played with Crazy Horse and to reflect the ominous tone of his singing. Young lowered his voice from the near-falsetto employed on his debut to a more expressive range, and he sang with greater confidence, accompanied by Whitten and, on "Round Round," by Robin Lane. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes, becoming a moderate hit. (Young's joining Crosby, Stills & Nash the month after its release didn't hurt his profile, of course.) A year and a half after its release, it became a gold album, and it has since gone platinum. And it set a musical pattern Young and his many musical descendants have followed ever since; almost 30 years later, he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it. ~ William Ruhlmann