Neil Young

Neil Young
Dreamin' Man Live '92
 Reprise Records
3.5 out of 5 stars

When word leaked that Neil Young was planning a series of archive releases in 2005, fans rejoiced at the prospect of finally getting their hands on unreleased archive material, including two fully completed, unreleased studio albums from the 1970s and a plethora of multi-tracked live concerts spanning nearly four decades. In the four years since the announcement, the archive project has yielded a poorly-received (and expensive) boxed set entitled Volume One: 1963-1972, and four separate live concert albums including: Live at Fillmore East, Live at Massey Hall 1971, Sugar Mountain: Live at the Canterbury House 1968, and the latest in the series, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92. Dreamin’ Man Live ’92 should please Young’s fans, especially those who enjoyed his 1992 studio album Harvest Moon.

Unlike the archive concert releases of the past, which were complete concerts consisting of varied setlists, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92 is actually a compiled live album, culled and recorded  on Young’s 1992 tour in support of his then-latest release, Harvest Moon. Although the track listing on the latest release does not follow the exact order of the original album, all songs on Harvest Moon are represented with Young giving solo interpretations of the original album’s work without the aid of a band. The album is a bare-bones affair and on some songs the strategy works brilliantly, and on others the songs simply fall flat.

Harvest Moon’s success in the early 1990s was attributed to a few things: Young’s return to acoustic guitar, piano and banjo, which had dominated his highly successful albums such as Harvest and Comes a Time, his return to a minimalist songwriting style in the folk/country fashion and his collaboration with the backing band The Stray Gators, who provided the country instrumentation on Young’s 1972 breakout album, Harvest. Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92 still has the great songs that were featured on Harvest Moon, but it is sorely missing the near-perfect accompaniment of The Stray Gators. Some songs, such as “Dreamin’ Man,” “From Hank to Hendrix,” and the wonderful, 11-minute version of “Natural Beauty” work really well. The musical accompaniment is barely missed from the original versions and the songs are more powerful, delivered with just an acoustic guitar, harmonica and voice.

All in all, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92 is a document of time, which is what Young’s Archive Series is all about.  Being the fifth release in a series of 12 live albums means there are more to come. You can’t hit a home run with every release, but sometimes a double will do just fine.

— Jonathan Keller

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