A Live Folk “Experience,” 40 Years Later
Famed music club The Cellar Door existed at the corner of 34th and M Streets in Washington, D.C. from 1965 to 1981. During those sixteen years the venue saw a bevy of well-known musicians perform within its intimate space, including some of the bigger acts of the ’60s and ’70s. The venue’s portfolio of performers includes the more popular names within blues, jazz and folk (B.B. King, Tom Waits, Harry Chapin), including Miles Davis and Richie Havens, both of whom cut live albums from their performances there (Davis’s Cellar Door Sessions and Havens’s Live at the Cellar Door, respectively).
Neil Young now joins these artists with the release of Live at the Cellar Door, a thirteen-track album with recordings from Young’s six shows at the space during the winter of 1970. Folk purists and fans of ’60s folk rock will appreciate the intimacy of Young’s solo live performance, playing tracks from his acclaimed After the Gold Rush, as well as acoustic versions of Crazy Horse collaborations “Down by the River” and “Cinnamon Girl.” Additionally, the warmth of Young’s live version of “After the Gold Rush” surpasses his studio version through the raw emotion he brought to his 1970 set. Even the elements of the recording that belie the live nature of the album contribute to its intimacy; the slight coughs from the audience, as well as the raw quality of Young’s in-his-prime voice, have a transporting effect in making Live at the Cellar Door more of an experience rather than just another live recording.
Overall, the album is a must-listen for the quintessential Neil Young fan because of the ways that the recording recaptures Young’s heyday quality, as well as its being a solid, more mellow live folk album. Forty years later, Young’s voice, accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano, still has a fresh quality worthy of praise and appreciation by all.