Music

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Live at Music Hall Boston, 1976

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Among fans, there’s a never-ending quest to find uncirculated recordings of Neil Young. There are forums that go on for pages and pages, in which new fans meticulously discuss everything from audio to performance quality and digitally EQ’ed mixes, while older ones reminisce about the joy of watching Young in their prime. The demand for recordings like this is particularly high when it comes to the Crazy Horse era, during which Young was arguably at the top of his game.

This addition to the Paste Vault features Neil Young and Crazy Horse playing a late show from their November 22, 1976 date at the Boston Music Hall. The early show was a half acoustic, half electric set, recorded by engineer Dan Lampinski, and is generally easier to find. The latter on the other hand, completely electric and also recorded by Lampinski, can be a little bit harder to get your hands on. Lampinski almost never traded copies of his recordings, which is a pity considering that he recorded some of the most prolific acts to come through Boston between 1974 and 1978 (Rush, Yes, and Pink Floyd, just to name a few). The show here features no EQ and was digitized directly from a master cassette of the performance.

The lack of EQ really highlights the group’s prowess as a live unit, the levels and a good amount of the playing are just magically precise. Now, an argument could be made about this being true of a lot of acts coming out of the ‘70s, and it’d be a true enough statement considering it was a time before digital recording, mastering and distribution. As a band, if you wanted to wow people with your sound, a majority of those opportunities were going to come in the form of a live show. But, Neil Young and Crazy Horse aren’t just putting on a show during which things just happen to go well; they’re actively slaying every minute.

The fact that they’re playing so well is a feat when you think about how even 10 years out, a lot of bands’ live performances just don’t seem to have that same glow to them. Neil Young and Crazy Horse bring that light aura to every song they play here, no matter what era the tunes come from. Elongated jams on songs like the ones on the lyrically oblique “Cowgirl In the Sand” (1969) and already golden “Like a Hurricane” (1977) though released about 8 years apart from each other sound as inspired as ever; like they could be contemporaries. If complete cohesion is the goal, let the record show that it’s not often that a group can make old material sound like you haven’t listened to it a thousand times, and newer material sound so tried and true. On this recording Young and company don’t just hit the mark, they bludgeon it to death.

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