Sound — 8
Being a young and promising musician, it's a good idea to record everything you do, especially concerts. Later on, being very famous and successful, you'll be able to add to your bank account and make happy some hundred thousand fans by releasing those old records. I think Neil Young knew this, coming to his home country Canada in 1971, already a star in America, and recording his concert in Toronto. In 2007 he remembered about it, found the tape in the basement and took it to the record label. In March 2007 Live at Massey Hall finally got to the store shells. This is the second album of Neil Young Archives series, following last year's Live at Fillmore East. Apart from the previous distorted and epic release, this one shows a different side of the artist -- more sentimental and unadorned. This is a one-man performance with Young singing mostly new songs (as they were at that time) and accompanying himself on guitar and piano. The album starts with enthusiastic applause and instead of boring silence between the tracks, you hear thankful audience clapping Young at the beginning and the end of almost every song. The songs we know and love sound different and often very unexpected with finger-picked guitar instead of an electric version. Like classic rock staple Old Man that amazes you with a pain and great sorrow instead of comfort James Taylor plinking banjo and Linda Ronstadt backing vocal provide in the original version. Acoustic tracks make you appreciate the vocals, the guitar and piano by Neil Young, showing you one of the most underrated sides of Young's talent -- playing the piano. The stand-out piano track is A Man Needs A Maid/heart Of Gold, introduced as a soundtrack to his life. With all the passion a man can get out of piano, Young plays delicate verses, along the choruses on the contrary loud and thunderous. High emotion level the artist performs with can easily be explained -- ten out of seventeen tracks were unreleased then and the concert at Massey Hall was one of the first times he performed them. The artist was probably still living though the experience that influenced him to write the songs.
Lyrics — 9
That sonic vibe of the record makes Young's lyrics sound even more personal and his distinctive all nose vocal more soulful. While the usual record presents you more a progress of newest record equipment, Live At Massey Hall lets you peep at what Neil Young's bare vocal is -- always soaring, trembling at softer tunes and roaring in culminations. Being 25 at that time, Young sings about maturing, relationships as well as some philosophical subjects. It also includes a regretful speech about a necessary attribute of any '70s rockstar -- heroin. Singing Journey Through The Past Young highlights the patriotic words I'm going back to Canada, which gets greetings from his compatriots.
Overall Impression — 8
The CD features a quiet cracking tape sound, giving you a warm nostalgia feel of an old vinyl. There are no impressive guitar solos or strong falsetto singing to impress you. The album is as simple and true as stripped-down emotions could be. The atmosphere of the CD is very intimate. Apart from tuning his guitar, Young often talks in between the songs, describing them and joking with the audience. When he's performing, it almost feels like he's singing and playing in your hall. If only not that sick annoying person that kills romance coughing all through the record...