Neil Young – Sugar Mountain – Live at the Canterbury House 1968 (2008)

The Indian in the corner trying on his clothes

Now some live music. Neil Young alone on stage at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan in November 1968. This was of course before the release of his first solo album which was released in January 1969.

This is a really nice show with stripped-down and laid-back acoustic versions of a number of great songs. The sound quality on the record isn’t that great though: there is a large amount of hiss compared to more modern recordings. Neil’s voice and guitar stand out clear, but the overall sound quality is among the lowest of official releases.

The album is a compilation from three nights at the Canterbury House. Neil plays mostly Buffalo Springfield songs and songs from his first solo album. He seems to have been in a great mood and there’s a lot of banter or “raps” in-between songs.

What to think about all the talking in-between the songs? Roughly one fifth of the length of the album is talking. I love when Neil talks at live shows, but when you are not there live I am a little bit conflicted. Yes, sure the first time you hear a fun story about how Neil lost his job at the book store due to drug use you smile, but to hear the story again and again?

This is the reason why I didn’t buy the “A star is born” soundtrack on vinyl as Lady Gaga had the “brilliant“ idea to add spoken dialogue from the film to the album. I think she wanted the listener to “re-live” the magic of the movie. But hey, if I want to re-live the movie I will actually watch the movie again! The movie is superb by the way, so if you love Neil and haven’t seen it, you better remedy it at once! The Promise of Real, Neil’s current backing band, is playing the back-up band in the movie!

This is the first of the Archives Performance Series I am reviewing. It was released in 2008 and preceded by two PS releases, so they don’t come out in chronological order. Neil and his team have pre-assigned series numbers to the releases. The first ever PS series was released in 2006, and it got the number 02, so I guess this 1968 show was added late. Number 01 is a live show from 1969 and number 02 is from March 1970. All the Performance Series shows will of course be reviewed here at Onelouder.reviews .

What do we get then when it comes to songs more specifically? Neil plays six Buffalo Springfield songs. One well-known and one smaller song from the first album “Buffalo Springfield”; “Nowadays Clancy can’t even sing” and “Out of my mind”. From the second “Buffalo Springfield again” we get three songs often played by Neil; “Mr. Soul”, “Expecting to fly” and “Broken arrow”, and from the third and last buffalo Springfield album “Last time around” we get another pillar of early live shows: “On the way home”.

From the not yet released first solo album “Neil Young” he played five songs; “The loner”, “If I could have her tonight”, “I’ve been waiting for you”, “The old laughing lady” and “The last trip to Tulsa”.

He also played “Birds” that would be part of the 1970 album “After the goldrush” and the 1964 song  “Sugar Mountain” that finally was released as a b-side on the “The loner” single. “Sugar mountain” was later included on “Decade”.

I enjoy the album and there are some great highlights. I love the tender and almost hesitant version of “The last trip to Tulsa”, you know the one about his dreams. He used to be a woman. I love this version, but it doesn’t take anything away from the version on the studio LP. I love them both 3000.

I also like “The loner” in this stripped-down version. Usually I don’t care too much for it, but here it blossoms. “Birds”, “Out of mind” and “If I could have her tonight” are all nice tracks as they are rare live, and I am not familiar with them.

“Sugar mountain” is such a great song and it is always most welcomed. The whole 2LP is even named after it! This version is also almost hesitant. Was Neil nervous? I don’t think so judging by all his banter. Maybe he had taken some of those pills he talked about?

“The old laughing lady” has some interesting guitar work but it is not essential.

Overall, I think the inclusion of the banter between songs is a negative for this record. It is nice to hear once or twice but for the album it is not ideal. As a historical document and an example of very early Neil it is important of course. There will be better recordings of live shows coming down the road.

Rating: 5/10

Side A:

  1. Introduction
  2. On the way home
  3. Songwriting rap
  4. Soul
  5. Recording rap
  6. Expecting to fly
  7. The last trip to Tulsa

Side B:

  1. Bookstore rap
  2. The loner
  3. “I used to…” rap
  4. Birds
  5. Winterlong (excerpts) & Out of my mind intro
  6. Out of my mind

Side C:

  1. If I could have her tonight
  2. Classical gas rap
  3. Sugar mountain intro
  4. Sugar mountain
  5. I’ve been waiting for you
  6. Songs rap
  7. Nowadays Clancy can’t even sing

Side D:

  1. Tuning rap & The old laughing lady intro
  2. The old laughing lady
  3. Broken arrow

Best songs: “The last trip to Tulsa”

Media: Limited edition 200 grams 2LP vinyl, 2009, Neil Young Archives Performance Series 00

2 thoughts on “Neil Young – Sugar Mountain – Live at the Canterbury House 1968 (2008)

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