Maybe it’s time to rewrite the
Neil Young history books
The young Neil Young-the earnest,
folk-oriented singer-songwriter of the late 1960s/early 1970s-has
come to be viewed as an almost-outsider artist with his strangely
ethereal, wavering high-tenor voice interpreting songs
preternaturally melancholy about such subjects as getting old, being
alone and needing love. He seemed a young man out of time-which may
be one reason he chose to invest so much equal time in being a more
familiar electric rocker.
But Sugar Mountain: Live at
Canterbury House 1968-a solo gig at an Ann Arbor folk club,
occurring after Buffalo Springfield’s break-up but before the
release of his first album-offers a different interpretation: Young
the raconteur: a relaxed, funny and engaging stage presence capable
of witty, personal monologues worthy of a talk-show host or
observational stand-up comedian. Mr. Entertainment.
For instance, his tale about getting
fired from a bookstore for being high on diet pills is hilarious. And
his story about using the first residuals (royalties) from his
Buffalo Springfield album sales to buy an old Bentley-currently in
the repair shop-is also funny, told with dead-on comic timing. And
there are more.
The songs, by the way, are beautiful.
He does mysterious Springfield compositions (“Broken Arrow,”
“Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”), and provocative newer tunes
(“The Old Laughing Lady,” “The Loner”). The version here of
“Sugar Mountain,” his enduring lost-adolescence lament written
before Springfield, has been previously released as a B-side and on
the Decade box set. But hearing it in this context adds to its
Live at Canterbury House, the
latest in a series of live recordings from his archives, is pretty
simple-left track is voice, right track acoustic guitar.
Simplicity, as is evident here, serves him quite well.