In a song ‘Old Man’ (ironically) on his album ‘After The Goldrush’, Neil Young sings rather plaintively of his life that he is ‘twenty-four’ and that there is ‘so much more’. He was right there. A quick count, including bootlegs and his contributions to joint ventures, and also compilations, and I appear to have in excess of seventy albums by the man, and that’s not counting those I have in more than one format (I have four versions of at least two of his records). Seventy! What hope have I of playing them all. Now he has finally completed the first – first! – volume of his long-promised ‘Archives’, which comprises either eight DVDs or eight CDs, or, for more money again, a set of Blu-Ray recordings, which, if you play things through a computer (I don’t) will be updated as and when new bits and pieces turn up.
Archives Vol. 1 collects together a mix of published and unpublished stuff, including, rather irritatingly, if you go for the cheap option, two which have already been released (although you can buy the remaining six separately through his web-site, and miss out on the book and other trinkets). He has composed a little essay on the way Blu-Ray is here to stay. Yes, Neil, that’s what they said about the 78, I suspect. But unless you get the DVDs, at any rate, you lose out on some of the material he’s offering. With almost anyone else, you would shrug and walk away. But the trouble with NY is that he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of good stuff hidden away. He is an expensive hobby. I might be tempted; I might fall.
The thing about him is the way he adapts his reedy, even weedy voice, to such different styles – he was famously sued by his company for not coming up with material that was commercial, when in fact the albums he was producing at that stage – rockabilly, country, techno, you name it, he tried it – were a sign of a fertile imagination. And I’ve always liked the way that he switches between harmless folkie and dangerous, feedback-laden rock guitarist. Someone once remarked on how he didn’t so much play a solo as hack his way through one: but then, that’s how I like it. And nor do I agree with most of the evaluations of his output, which tend to relegate the 1990s album ‘Are You Passionate?’ to the ‘only for completists’ section. It’s probably my favourite – lots of earnest love songs over Booker T. and the MGs, surely one of the classiest backing bands you could hope to have.
Still, it’s a problem. I can scrape the money together all right, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it if I do (if you buy the DVDs, you apparently also get the key to downloading the CDs, which is a bonus). It’s just that – when will I get the time to listen? I will have to go on a round-Britain trip, and visit all my cousins again. It’s one way of setting about it, I suppose.
Buy the DVDs? I must be mad.
Apologies to NY. As he says, “Are You Passionate?” is 2001, and “Old Man” is on Harvest. And I went for the six separate CDs. Long may he run.