The Record Review

The Place For Honest Record Reviews

Neil Young’s Latest Proves a Natural Beauty

Neil Young – Dreamin’ Man Live 1992
December 8, 2009
Reprise Records
Victim of the Loudness War: No


Neil Young’s recent roll-out of his  “Archive Series” has been a treasure trove of recordings from the man’s vault, featuring live and studio recordings that have either never seen the light of day at all or have never been released with such painstaking quality in mind. So far, fans have gotten the legendary performance from Massey Hall in 1971, a smoking set by Young and Crazy Horse from the Fillmore in 1970, some early recordings from 1968 and a mammoth boxed set spanning 1963-1972. But no release in the series thus far matches the quality and exuberance of the latest release in the project, the live acoustic, Dreamin’ Man Live 1992.

Recorded on tour in 1992, Dreamin’ Man captures Neil Young when he’s perhaps at his finest: alone. The album’s ten tracks (which mirror his 1992 studio release, Harvest Moon, in content but not running order) solely feature Young on each performance, using a guitar, harmonica or piano to accompany his stark-yet-alluring vocals. Gone are the lush, low-key colorations found on the album versions of the same songs, replaced by an intimate air that make already perfect songs that much more so. At the very least, it’s proof that Neil Young doesn’t need bells and whistles to make his music sound good – it can stand on its own just fine.

Dreamin’ Man opens with its title track, a beautiful tune that is given a new luster in this minimalist approach. The song gives way to “Such a Woman,” reduced to Young and his piano relating a simple message of love. Next up is “One of These Days,” a track that was amazing in its studio form and comes off quite well in this setting as Young recalls his past with gentle strums and heartfelt lyrics. It’s a poignant moment that stands out amongst the many others that surround it throughout the album’s hour.

Dreamin’ Man earns its accolades beginning with the next song, the absolutely magical “Harvest Moon.” The original version of this song is one that feels as though it was recorded beneath the very feature it is titled after, with a light acoustic guitar accompanied by brushed percussion, a stand-up bass and lilting backing vocals. Here as before, it is just Young and his guitar/harmonica combo and the listener is still treated to a song that sounds as though it was recorded sitting in front of a barn as opposed to a theater full of people. The subtle harmonics that once blended into the background are now brought forward, giving Young’s admittedly off-kilter vocal style that much more of a chance to shine through the mix.

“Harvest Moon” is quickly followed by “You and Me,” a move that reverses their order from the original studio album. Here, the songs belong together, as the stripped down version of “Harvest Moon” merges quite will with the already bare bones “You and Me,” another simple yet thoroughly moving song of love. They are a pair of songs that you never want to end, but luckily when they do Young has more than enough to stave off disappointment.

Dreamin’ Man is rounded out by “War of Man,” a haunting tale of the ongoing battle between man and the natural environment. On paper, that sounds as though it would be somewhat of a soapbox step-up for Young, but he manages to convey his point without getting too preachy. Instead, it’s a powerful closing to a truly beautiful collection of recordings from one of the most endeared periods in Young’s vast career. If the remainder of the “Archive Series” includes releases as undeniably strong as this, listeners will be in for one hell of a treat.

–  Ian Rice


To purchase a copy of Dreamin’ Man Live 1992, please click here.


December 15, 2009 Posted by | classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Crowes Reawakened

tbcfrostThe Black Crowes – Before the Frost…Until the Freeze
August 31, 2009
Silver Arrow Records

Victim of Loudness War? No

The Black Crowes have long been established as one of rock and roll’s pre-eminent live acts. Over the last 20 years, they have pushed boundaries on stages across the world, refusing to play their hits, choosing to instead melt faces with soaring guitar duels, earthy jams, outtakes from album sessions,  B-sides to singles, new originals, re-worked originals, or a myriad assortment of well-chosen and expertly executed covers. The unfortunate thing is, like a majority of bands who are vitally potent on stage, that vitality does not always translate onto record.

In the case of the Black Crowes, the studio catalog has been spotty at best. Discounting The Lost Crowes (a rarities collection released in 2006 comprised from unreleased sessions recorded from 1993-1997), the Crowes’ recorded output the past 10 years has ranged from tentative but earnest (last year’s “comeback” Warpaint) to non-cohesive experimentation (2001’s Lions), to a downright awful parody of themselves (1999’s By Your Side). Even a live album (2002’s Live), which should have been the Crowes’ “ace in the hole,” failed to impress, mostly due to conservative song selection light on the jamming which defines their live experience, a sub-par line-up, and a very murky mix (very much a victim of the “Loudness War,” it is almost unlistenable). Continue reading

September 2, 2009 Posted by | Black Crowes, Blues, classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, jam band, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Arctic Monkeys Continue to Beat Criticism

arcticmonkeyshumbugArctic Monkeys – Humbug
September 1, 2009
Domino Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

The Arctic Monkeys underwent a great deal of criticism when they first appeared in 2005, mostly due to the level of hype surrounding their second single, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor.” The band was catapulted into the spotlight, seemingly from oblivion, and received praise after praise for their take on the British Indie-rock sound. Thus, the backlash against them came fairly quickly, mostly from critics that think themselves too cool for the room and staunchly against anything approaching the mainstream. But which side of the argument had the most merit? Were the Arctic Monkeys a breath of fresh air or a cash-in on the successes of those that came before them? Continue reading

September 2, 2009 Posted by | Guitar, Guitars, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Switch On This Moment

oriordanDolores O’Riordan – No Baggage
August 25, 2009
Zoe Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

Looking back on the alternative music movement of the early ‘90s, very few of the artists and bands that were so highly regarded at the time can still be put on the same pedestal a decade or more removed. Most of the material comes off sounding extremely dated and the reputations didn’t last much past all the hype. Singer/songwriter Dolores O’Riordan, former leader of Irish band The Cranberries, is one artist that survives the aforementioned process, remaining a dynamic and vibrant singer and songwriter years after her first appearance in 1993. Her former band may have fallen by the wayside had it not been for the dual ferocity and subtlety that her performance style brought to the table, leaving them amongst the few ‘90s acts that still retains their merit. Continue reading

August 24, 2009 Posted by | classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, Rock | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment