One Of The Very Best Performances (Godfather Records GR737)
Royal Festival Hall, London, England – February 27th, 1971
(79:36): On The Way Home, Tell Me Why, Old Man, Journey Through The Past, Cowgirl In The Sand, The Bridge, The Loner, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, See The Sky About To Rain, Out On The Weekend, I Am A Child, Ohio, Love In Mind, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Heart Of Gold, A Man Needs A Maid, Harvest, The Needle And The Damage Done, Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing, Dance Dance Dance, Expecting To Fly
Neil Young established very early in his career a need to have various vehicles to convey his art. In one year he recorded with CSNY, Crazy Horse and as a solo artist. And, not content to stick to their unique catalogues, he happily reinterpreted and rearranged tunes from all of his songbooks.
The Journey Through The Past tour were his only live dates in 1971 (save for three guest appearances with CSN in October). It took in twenty-five shows in North America and Canada with the solo international dates in London at the end of February. On the twenty-third he taped a video performance for BBC television.
On the twenty-seventh Young played his only live show in London before a paid audience. It was his second ever show in London (the first was on January 6th, 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall with CSNY) and is preserved on this distant but very clear and sharp mono audience recording of the entire show.
It’s strange that such a good recording has had so few releases. The old and rare Italian Live Loner (Fabri Editori) contains “See The Sky About To Rain” ” Out On The Weekend,” “Journey Through The Past” and “The Bridge” along with tracks from Cincinnati 1970 and California 1973 and Solo Tour 1970-71 (Silver Shadow CD 9102) contained some material as well.
Godfather’s is the first release of the entire show on one disc and is a fitting production for one of Neil Young’s very best solo performances.
He begins with the old Buffalo Springfield tune “On The Way Home” followed by “Tell Me Why” from his latest solo LP After The Goldrush. Young’s voice is extremely high-pitched and whiny, but by the same token very strong and strangely expressive (which probably describes his entire aesthetic).
He’s also quite nervous and reserved at first, perhaps wondering how his solo material will go over in London.
It doesn’t take him long to start introducing strange new tunes to the set. Before “Old Man,” a song that would be included on Harvest in 1972, he tells the story of buying his ranch and contemplating the old man who came with the property.
He changes to piano for “Journey Through The Past” which would have to wait two years for release, finding room on Time Fades Away in 1973. After that song, he jokes a bit, telling the audience he wrote most of the new songs on the road and point out that last song is “a middle of the road song, actually.”
After “Cowgirl In The Sand,” Young returns to the piano for “The Bridge.” Explaining that it’s based upon a Hart Crane poem, he delivers an especially poignant performance of a song that he played only three times. After this performance, he would play it twice in 1973 and use a recording from Sacramento for Time Fades Away. The London performance, which Godfather also includes in the Road Of Plenty box set, differs from Sacramento by lacking the little harmonica interludes.
A performance from Sacramento in 1973 was used on Time Fades Away, it was only played three times but, except for the official recording, this is the only other version available (the third performance was in Phoenix 1973 which was never recorded). After “The Loner” Young explains that he’s been to London three times now and has never gotten out of the city before “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.”
The first half of the show ends with “See The Sky About To Rain,” a new song which, he says, won’t be on the next album. It wouldn’t be released until 1974’s On The Beach.
At the start of the second half of the show, Young begins with the new song “Out On The Weekend.” The tune was given its debut earlier in the week on the BBC telecast and would be included on Harvest. He follows with two older songs, the Buffalo Springfield tune “I Am A Child” (“which still applies to me, unfortunately” Young jokes) and the CSNY firebrand “Ohio” which loses none of its passion in a stripped down acoustic arrangement.
A majority of the next twenty minutes are filled with tunes unfamiliar to the audience there that night. “Love In Mind” sounds gorgeous but wouldn’t surface for another two years on Time Fades Away. He follows with “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and then four consecutive songs from Harvest. All of them have been played before on the tour except the title track, which makes its live debut in this show.
He ends the show with an acoustic arrangement of “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” the first Buffalo Springfield single, followed by “Dance, Dance, Dance” and finally another Buffalo Springfield tune “Expecting To Fly.”
One Of The Very Best Performances lives up to its name because it contains a great show and a very good to excellent recording. It has several live debuts and rarities in a very intimate performance before an appreciative audience. Godfather’s packaging is also quite nice with many photographs of an intense artist from the era. This is another excellent Neil Young Godfather release.