Comprehensive collectible set includes never-ever-released songs
The man needs no introduction, even if people have never heard of him because his name is in the title of his latest release, Neil Young Archives Vol. II (1972 – 1976). The second volume of his anthologized songs will be released November 20th, but the limited amount of 3,000 units has already sold out. Testifying to the prolificacy of Neil Young himself, the album contains over 130 songs and is nearly eight full hours long, about the breadth of an audiobook. And this is only a chronicle of a three-and-a-half-year span, a tiny sliver of the beaucoup production of the seemingly indefatigable musician. It’s not just Young’s songs recapped into a collection, most songs (almost every other one) are either an unreleased version, live version, alternative mix, original or an entirely never-before-heard song. Its girth is daunting, but it allows one an insight into the artist never before possible. Of the 131 titles on the track list, twelve have never met the public ear.
Of the unreleased songs, “Frozen Man” features Young armed only with voice and guitar singing of feeling trapped in a “frozen man.” He sings: “still I can’t escape myself, I gather dust like an old book shelf/ that’s alright, who could live inside this frozen man?” as broody as ever, “help me get outside this frozen man.” In the very first track of the archive, another unreleased tune, “Letter from ‘Nam,” he melodiously queries the vertigo of war far away from home. “America, America, where have I gone?/ It’s such a long walk home” he sings in balladry, and with more precision and grace after the studio engineer or voice coach tells him the first set of “Americas” sung sounded a little strained. It’s a rough cut that has its charm because of it.
“Homefires” begins with harmonica and buoyant acoustic guitar strumming, Young reflects on the transience of his identity, singing “I’m not the same man I was a while ago/ I learned some new things/ I hope that it shows.” After the verse, another harmonica riff sounds off while the foundation is kept by unabating guitar strums. “Born to Run” goes electric and louder. “I was born to run” is the plangent yet triumphant refrain among overdrive-laden bluesy barre chords and diverting treble-laced licks. “Come Along and Say You Will” is folksier, more singsong and singalong. He sings, inscrutably, “I walk around the center with a nail through your head,” supposedly the same one who would “be the one to change the meaning of the writing on the wall,” arraigning the trifles of the song’s nameless pedant.
All other songs will be familiar to Neil Young fans, albeit in never-before-heard versions. 62 of the 131 are such songs. The albums the volume draws from include, but are not limited to, Homegrown, Tonight’s the Night, Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live and ne’er-released Odeon Budokan, a full-length live concert LP. In other songs, Young performs in associated acts like Crosby, Still, Nash & Young; the Stray Gators and Crazy Horse, et al. The solo material features recordings from Young in concert or inchoate studio recordings bestrewed with endearing little slips and blunders.
People can find more info on the Neil Young Archive Vol. II and other Neil Young paraphernalia on his mock-newspaper website, NYA Times-Contrarian, on which he himself writes articles on topics of interest to him, such as delivery drones accidentally dropping cannabis over Tel Aviv, various updates on his, and his favorites’ music and even the announcement of the release of his debut science-fiction novel, all written classic print-newspaper style under a retro-looking music player that streams his music. A faux antique gauge-dial displays the kbps speed at which the current song plays while you peruse the site.
Since “the initial run sold out in less than 24 hours,” Young plans to release another wave of deluxe box sets while also announcing the cheaper retail version of the collection made available in tandem with the deluxe ones. Both the deluxe and retail edition of the CD archival collection are available for preorder and will be physically released March 5, 2021. Both come with 10 CDs, each fitted into a sleeve bedecked with its own cover artwork and an oversized fold-out Archives Poster. The retail edition has a 24-page booklet that replaces the 252-paged hardbound book the deluxe edition contains and a smaller slip-case box. Neither set comes with free international shipping.
Long live Neil Young.