Neil Young

Live at Massey Hall 1971

Neil Young fans haven't it had it this good in decades. After years of broken promises, the curmudgeonly commander of grunge and alt-country is finally unearthing gems from his storied treasure chest. Last year, we were treated to the Crazy Horse bash Live at the Fillmore East from 1970. Whereas that disc showed Young in all his rock-god glory, Live at Massey Hall, from '71, finds him in a tender, acoustic mode. He sounds weary from his newfound fame, the political turbulence of the times and the heroin abuse by his peers that prompted him to pen "The Needle and the Damage Done," one of many Young classics given warm readings here. But while "Needle" and the Kent State-inspired "Ohio" are striking, it's the confessional songs from this live solo set that burrow the deepest. About halfway through the show, Young gets behind an upright piano and plays the gorgeous melody to "A Man Needs a Maid." Stripped of the soaring string section heard on 1972's Harvest, the song's a chilling statement about male insecurity. Young makes the point clear by singing, on the first verse, "a man feels afraid" — a line not included on the studio take. "Maid" then segues into an inspired version of "Heart of Gold" that eclipses the hit we still hear on oldies radio. Moments like this make Massey Hall essential for Young enthusiasts and a fine place to start for novices who want to know what all the fuss is about. 5 stars

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