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Neil Young - Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise)

2 December 2008

Another year, another fine show from Neil Young’s archives. This one is compiled from two solo acoustic shows on consecutive nights in Ann Arbor, before his solo debut had been released.

We get to hear six of his BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD songs (“On the Way Home,” “Mr. Soul,” “Out of My Mind,” “Expecting to Fly,” “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” “Broken Arrow”), some of which RICHIE FURAY had sung on their LPs. We also hear half the songs from his upcoming first LP, and the early “Sugar Mountain” (this exact version was released on Decade), plus an embryonic “Birds,” somewhat different in melody and especially phrasing from its 1970 form on After the Gold Rush.

It’s worth noting that Neil talks to the audience a lot. There are 23 tracks, but only 13 are complete songs. Never fear, though: the CD is 70 minutes, and I dropped it into iTunes and extracted a playlist of just the songs: that totals 54 minutes, a perfectly reasonable amount of music. That said, serious Neil fans will enjoy hearing his between-songs “raps” for his wit and for autobiographical details.

The main attractions, though, are the intimacy of the songs as heard here, Neil at his most openly vulnerable (and only playing guitar – no piano yet), and some repertoire that would soon be dropped in favor of newer songs. This is a real time-capsule show, enjoyable both as history and purely as music.