Neil Young – Songs for Judy (2018)

“The Joel Bernstein tapes” redux

Bootlegs have always been a big part of my love for Neil. He has always been good at playing songs in different versions. It may be with different bands, in different genres or moods, performed acoustic or electric and so on. One of the holy grails of Neil boots was “The Joel Bernstein Tapes”. It was a private tape of favourite performances of the acoustic solo parts of The Neil Young and Crazy Horse tour late 1976 recorded from the mixing desk by sound technician Joel Bernstein.

In his Archives Performance Series these old live shows are released in chaotic order. It is a joy to be still alive to be able to experience all these releases. I love it and I give Neil two thumbs up for his generosity. And “Songs for Judy” is one of the better.

As always it is exciting to get songs on the live albums that haven’t been released previously. One new song has popped up on this one, “No one seems to know”. It is at best an ok song, sometimes I do love it, and now it’s “out there”. Also there were several songs that were unreleased at the time of the performances. This is also very cool, to get to hear them long before they made it to any record.

One example is the great acoustic version of “White line” that was released with full band and electric instruments on “Ragged glory” (1990). Another notable song is the absolutely adorable “Too far gone” that was released, with full band, on “Freedom” (1989). The version here is not close to the brilliant version on “Freedom”, and also spoiled a little by in-song banter from Neil. All that talking within songs is clearly more fun when you are there at the live show. “Human highway”, ”Give me strength”, ”Love is a rose”, ”Campaigner” and ”Pocahontas” are other songs that were unreleased at the time of the shows.

The first track is spoken words, a story by Neil about a dream where he met Judy Garland. It is a curiosity and fun to hear once or twice. Unfortunately, this story is also connected to the album’s cover designed by Neil’s new partner Darryl Hannah. The picture itself is fine, but as a cover on the album it is not good at all. Neil usually has really, really nice album covers but this gives a completely wrong feeling. Sorry this is how I feel. It doesn’t give me any connection to the content on the record at all.

The sound quality is great with no unwanted hiss. It is apparently a mix of songs taken from the PA system (mixing desk), as well as some tracks taken from a professional grade recording equipment. There are no concerns regarding the sound quality on these vinyl records.

My rating: 8/10

Side A:

  1. Songs for Judy (stage banter)
  2. Too far gone
  3. No one seems to know
  4. Heart of gold
  5. White line
  6. Love is a rose

Side B:

  1. Human highway
  2. Tell me why
  3. Soul
  4. Mellow my mind
  5. Give me strength
  6. A man needs a maid

Side C:

  1. Roll another number
  2. Journey through the past
  3. Harvest
  4. Campaigner
  5. Old laughing lady

Side D:

  1. The losing end
  2. Here we are in the years
  3. The needle and the damage done
  4. Pocahontas
  5. Sugar mountain

Favourite songs: “White line”, “Mr. Soul”, “Give me strength”, “Roll another number”, “Journey through the past” and “Pocahontas”.

Media: Gatefold 2LP, 180 gram, Performance Series 07

Released on November 30, 2018

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