Neil Young – One Night At Canterbury House (Empress Valley Supreme Disk EV 1512 / 1513 / 1514)

Neil Young, ‘One Night At Canterbury House’ (Empress Valley Supreme Disk EV 1512 / 1513 / 1514)

Disk 1 – First set; Intro / On The Way Home / Helpless / Dance, Dance, Dance / I’ve Loved Her So Long / Down By The River / I Am A Child / Everybody’s Alone / Wonderin’ / Oh, Lonesome Me / Flying On The Ground Is Wrong / Country Girl (63:67)

Disk 2 – Second set; On The Way Home / Helpless / Cinnamon Girl / The Loner / Birds / I Am A Child / Everybody’s Alone / Dance, Dance, Dance / The 1956 Bubblegum Disaster / It’s My Time / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere / The Old Laughing Lady / I’ve Been Waiting For You / Here We Are In The Years / Wonderin’ / Down By The River / Country Girl (79:42)

Disk 3 – Third Set; Down To The Wire / On The Way Home / Helpless / Flying On The Ground Is Wrong / Dance, Dance, Dance / Birds / The Loner (False start) / Cinnamon Girl / The Loner / Everybody’s Alone / I Am A Child / I’ve Been Waiting For You / Country Girl (52:21)

What others have done via museum shows – The Rolling Stones / David Bowie / Pink Floyd – Neil Young has decided to do via the internet. And why not? Never all that interested in ‘style’ (Would you want to visit a collection of threadbare plaid over-shirts and rusted barns?), the erstwhile Canadian rocker has decided to set out his stall online – the archives boxed sets pay out once, twice if you can trust Spotify or Apple Music to pay his rent, the NYA site will, in a paetron kind of way, keep the coffers full. For Neil, as we know, it’s all about the music. 

Taken from that very same source, a new bootleg of three sets from one night, recorded on the 16th of October, 1969, a night where Neil performed, taking a break between recording sessions for ‘After The Goldrush’ – None of those tracks appear tonight, apart from, conversely, ‘Wonderin’’ which never made it to the first cuts of the LP and would have to wait another 50 years to take their place. Instead we have a grouping of ‘Everybody Knows’ tracks, Buffalo Springfield tracks and other oddities from along the way. 

Young played three sets on the night of 16th October, 1969. Each one bumping gently again against each other, only briefly repeating songs between each set (Of the 42 songs played tonight, 9 are unique to their sets, a few others are only repeated twice and missed on at least one set). Pete Long’s OOP book notes that “‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ features an additional verse that went unrecorded and the second version of ‘Country Girl’ features different lyrics.”

The first show begins with a take on the Buffalo Springfield track, ‘On The Way Home’ then sprint the way haphazardly through his recorded and unrecorded catalogue. Neil announces that the night was to be a “live portion of an album”, whether this was all supposed to be cut in to his next album isn’t made clear, it’s however obvious that that album never made it and instead languished in Neil’s archives until it was slotted in to the app.

Most of the songs are lightly improvisational, with various ad-libs running through them while Neil rambles away on off-the-cuff subjects frequently, possibly down to the fact that he’s a little lit or tipsy – Among the subjects; Bush babies, the charts, confusion over the fact that people who had been to see him before know songs that he had yet to record (‘Birds’, which misses the first set but gets added to the second and third), a discussion between Neil and himself over how to fit his new capo, airplane food, the mutterings get more and more incoherent towards the end of the set, even though the music never suffers because of it. 

The second set continues in the same vein as the first, it flits between old and new with a few requests dropped in – The intro is abbreviated (Not sure if this is for time as the disk is packed full already – Though ‘The 1956 Bubblegum Disaster’ and ‘It’s My Time’ are relatively brief) but the chatter is raked in a little. Neil fronts straight after the first song however with a rambling tale regards Buffalo Springfield and the first times that they played at the Greek Theatre which quickly segues in to what Neil had been watching on the news, which amused him.

The set once again flits between old and new, a bout of tuning has Neil turning his attention to another news story that he read in the press, about a multiple murderer – completely unrelated to his song or any other point or so it might seem as Neil flows gently between ‘Cinnamon Girl’ to ‘The Loner’ in a gorgeous medley. 

There’s the case of the missing car engine and the song that was inspired by the long wait to get back on the road again, the cars that will run on natural gas that’ll eventually eradicate the smog in LA. Neil ends by joking that ‘Country Girl’ will end up on the ‘Crosby, Stills and Feingould (sic)’ album, as their lawyers will try have it and the reactions to the portrait of his on the debut solo album. The song narrowly scrapes being captured for prosperity as whom ever is capturing the concert is changing reels (Though the way Neil says it suggests that there’s film being recorded of the show, too).

Of the third set, the shortest of the sets this evening, it forgoes the intro as Neil brings ‘Down To The Wire’ to the set list, displacing ‘On The Way Home’ to second place. Neil, doubtless tired and lagged, shuttles through his songs with only a murmur of the chatter that he had been spinning the rest of the night while upping the ante of all the tuning that he has to do. Joking that ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ was to be his next single (The topic has come up previously this evening, all for different songs), he also recycles his ‘Birds’ joke and talks a little about his time with Buffalo Springfield. 

He continues taking requests from the crowd though his mental fog causes a breakdown of ‘The Loner’ which he’s happy to resurrect a little later on, the set ends, again, on Country Girl. 

There are too many highlights to pinpoint within the three sets. Despite the fact that you’re aware of the fact that lots of these tracks are being premiered for a new audience, the baffling among of silly tangents that Neil sends himself along on. None of the sets are better or of a lesser quality than the last on any count. 

The sound quality of these sets, needless to say is acoustically electrifying – No tape hiss, no glitches, no weird mixing fluctuations. It’s JUST like you’re sat next to Neil on the stage, you can feel the guitar strums through the bones on your chest, you can almost smell the sweet plume of weed (If you’ve actually lit a doobie, go for it, you could be asleep in his guitar case). It’s just as good as any official release and, considering the quality of the tapes, even better. 

There’s the simple packaging too – A glossy gatefold sleeve with era correct photos (Nothing rare, though), the beautiful silkscreen disks, all very neat and orderly but it’s all about the music again. 

Alongside the recent, official Carnegie Hall release recorded later that year, this HAS to be a must purchase, seemingly as Neil only wants to release it on his own website and, unless you’ve got some top end streaming equipment or don’t want to turn away from your computer, then your second best choice is this triple set (Which should work, I guess, anywhere you take them .. ) For Young fans, an instant pick up, for the curious, an excellent choice to own beside the official catalogue. One of the best boots / pirates to own this year. 

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