critic's pick 51

neil young: sugar mountain, live at canterbury house 1968

neil young: sugar mountain, live at canterbury house 1968

Among the many pop recordings released in November 1968 to be eclipsed by the Goliath that was The Beatles’ “white album” was the self-titled solo debut LP of Neil Young. Fresh from the wreckage of the Buffalo Springfield, Young’s record revealed a primitive, isolated innocence. Its romantic echoes were invariably troubled, sharing greatly with the poetics of another Canadian-turned-Californian that had also issued an intial album in 1968: Joni Mitchell.

Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 is an amazingly unblemished and fresh sounding archival concert recording cut in Ann Arbor a mere two days before Neil Young hit stores to start solo a career than remains remarkably vital today.

The nostalgic allure of such a recording is outlined in an accompanying audio DVD, which, in its few fleeting video backdrops, highlights two advertisements for the Nov. 9 and 10 performances. One says the shows will include “free eats.” The other reveals the ticket price of $1.50. An outrageous $2 was charged at the door. By the way, tickets for Young’s just completed North American tour topped out at $250.

So what was once a bargain is now pure gold. Sugar Mountain presents a youthful, unusually chatty Young in a solo acoustic performance that mixes tunes from Neil Young, a few Buffalo Springfield favorites and, as has always been Young’s way, a handful of then-new tunes that wouldn’t surface on an album for years.

The solo setting serves the Neil Young tunes especially well. The Loner, for instance, may not pack the electric charge of the finished studio version or even the punkish gallop Young put the tune through in ensuing decades with Crazy Horse. But the solitude suits the song, and not just in obvious ways implied by the title. It brings to the surface a fragility that marks not only the song’s forlorn protagonist but its entire storytelling element. It was designed as a confession, of sorts. And in the stark intimacy of Canterbury House, the song and the character it details are offered no refuge. In fact, the audience quiet that surrounds The Loner is almost as chilling as the music itself.

Ditto for the Springfield relics Expecting to Fly and Broken Arrow as well as the Neil Young masterwork The Old Laughing Lady. To varying degrees, all were infected with intrusive string arrangements and other production excesses. Here, the more elemental deliveries sound quite complete. As with The Loner, the club setting is full of such stirring and complimentary quiet that an audience cough during The Old Laughing Lady sounds like a clap of thunder.

There are over a half-dozen points during Sugar Mountain where Young talks at length to the audience. The most amusing of these comes when he describes how seemingly long the songwriting process for a tune can be (“like an hour-and-half, two hours”). A smattering of chuckles understandably follows. But then Young tells how one song took him a mere five minutes and a single draft to compose (“you’re a radio station; you send out and it comes to you… that must have been what happened”). With that he rips into Mr. Soul, a Springfield classic Young would drag through grunge and electro-pop revisions in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Here, it’s like a youthful protégé to the haggard, sinister blues version on Young’s 1993 Unplugged album. But the sentiments are the same.

“Is it strange I should change? I don’t know,” Young sings. How prophetic, given the changes that would soon mark Young’s brilliant career.


US Fed News Service, Including US State News September 18, 2008 The city of Escondido issued the following news release: web site escondido humane society

Escondido city officials have closed Mayflower Dog Park after determining that a dog abandoned at the park has died of Parvo. The park will remain closed until further notice while various decontamination options are evaluated. go to website escondido humane society

This morning Escondido Humane Society staff notified Robin Bettin, Assistant Director of Community Services, that they had rescued an abandoned dog from the dog park earlier this week. The dog has since been diagnosed with Parvo and has died.Contact: Robin Bettin, 760/839-6269.

Robin Bettin, 760/839-6269.

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