Neil Young “Archives II: 1972 – 1976” (Reprise, 2020)

Opening with Letter from ‘Nam – all solo acoustic and plaintive musing and closing with Cortez the Killer – a live incendiary explosion from the ‘Hammy Odeon’, the 10 discs in Archives II mine a Klondike rich seam of creativity from probably the most important musician of the late twentieth century at his most creative time (with the possible exception of Bob Dylan). Lots to argue there … but to the task in hand.

Disc 1 Everybody’s Alone deals with ’72-73 and is a mix of solo and band recorded studio stuff and outtakes from the Time Fades Away tour. Monday Morning and The Bridge are gorgeous, stately piano ballads with Young pouring on the melancholy on both these unheard versions and Come Along Say You Will and Goodbye Christians On The Shore are similarly strong songs and these have never been released in any form before. The latter a strange 7/8 shuffle and the former a full band work out that could easily have featured on Harvest or even On The Beach. Ramshackle and stirring. Once we enter the tour outtakes Sweet Joni stands out; an unreleased piano ballad ‘never done before’ and the version of LA is also a killer solo acoustic lament. Rich stuff; with Young’s voice reaching that cracked glory that speaks of so much to so many.

Disc 2 is the alternative live album to Time Fades Away already released as Tuscaloosa and a less spiky album it is, featuring as it does songs from Harvest and After The Goldrush amongst others. Familiarity with TFA notwithstanding, it still seems the stronger set of the two

Disc 3 and 4 concern Tonight’s The Night. Disc 3 is most of the original album tracks supplemented by Speaking Out jam – a drunken piano-led take on the track ( which appears 3 times over the 10 discs). Everybody’s Alone – a reworking of a Whitten era song from the After The Goldrush sessions, in this iteration it’s a bruised and emotional howl with some gorgeous steel guitar poured all over it. Raised on Robbery features Joni Mitchell on lead vocals of her Court and Spark song with Young and the band racing to keep up as she charges towards the finish. A proper garage band feel gives the whole thing a sense of joy and anarchy. Disc 4 is the previously released Live at the Roxy with the added track The Losing End. If TTN is a favourite and it is a bitter but often welcome pill then Live at the Roxy is a double dose that retains its emotional and visceral punch. 

Dark days indeed. 

And the dark days continue on Disc 5 Walk On with Young being supported by Molina, Talbot and Keith in the months after the TTN sessions on amongst others an unreleased version of Bad Fog of Loneliness and Young alone on Traces, each highlights and each steeped in that all pervading melancholy and heartache. The rest of the disc is essentially On The Beach until a desolate version of Greensleeves which Young had played live but never committed to vinyl. Written by Henry VIIIth you know.

Disc 6 The Old Homestead sees Young as a dichotomy. There is the gorgeous and aching solo troubadour of Through My Sails, Pardon My Heart and the unheard Frozen Man and LA Girls and Ocean Boys but then there is the CSNY Hawaii shenanigans and the inclusion of live ’74 cuts On The Beach and Pushed It Over The End. There are 3 versions of Love Art Blues, here is an artist working and reworking songs and still not satisfied. 

Disc 7 is the previously released Homegrown and seems to show the hints of perhaps melancholy turning to mellow but the astonishing yet slight Little Wing takes some beating for fragile beauty. 

Disc 8 is entitled Dume and is the Zuma sessions write large. Young is invigorated and Ol Black does the singing as much as he does. Ride My Llama is a full on rocker drenched in feedback. Born To Run, an unreleased gem and not a Springsteen cover, sees the band in that rusted out garage where they belonged. The version of Powderfinger is stunning. Funeral of pace and full of slabs of guitar as Molina beats a dreadful (in the true meaning of the word) rhythm. Young is howling the words as the tragedy unfolds. As I said stunning… and different. Similarly Pocahontas is a revisionist revelation with dynamic harmonies and the sweetest of guitars cushioning the heartbreaking narrative.

Disc 9 Look Out For My Love features the Horse and CSN in various shapes and gives the listener a chance to reacquaint themselves with lost classics such as Fontainebleau and a wonderful version of Separate Ways of which Stephen Stills’ gorgeous organ accompaniment was beautifully repealed by Booker T Jones when they were Young’s backing band in Finsbury Park in 1993! The soft rock joy that is Midnight On The Bay and Human Highway are also notable for their potential CSNY application that never materialised. 

Disc 10 is Live Odeon Budokhan which unfolds with the Live Rust template – half acoustic, half electric. All the versions are unreleased and of the acoustic – Stringman is strong and touching as is The Old Laughing Lady while After The Goldrush feels a touch leaden but when joined by the Horse everything becomes clear and electric!  Lotta Love is a riot – all harmonies and smiles and Cortez is indeed a killer. 

So there it is – a radio broadcast from 48-44 years ago direct to the heart. It’s not cheap but worth the trip to the ditch and back, as a seasoned Young watcher this reviewer has found his love of the man reinvigorated and perhaps reawakened by these songs both the new and the revised. This is a stronger biography than anything written and illuminates an artist struggling with amongst other things loss, expectation, grief, substance abuse and above all an outpouring of music and a desire to perform that music that seems to have been unstoppable. This collection will change the way fans look at songs they love and maybe deepen their affection for a truly original and singular talent. Long May He Run. 

Extraordinary collection from the creative peak of a titan of modern music

About Keith Hargreaves 376 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
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Andrew Riggs

Great review I’ve ordered and expect delivery March 2021, I have managed to down load 139 of the songs and as you say probably Neil at his peak. For me the main drawback is the lack of new or unreleased songs and too much duplication. It’ll sit well with Vol 1 Blu-ray (?) which new seems redundant we were supposed to get updates but that concept was abandoned years ago. Lucky we’ll have to wait many years for the archives of the last 10 years.