Neil Young & Bluenote Café – Bluenote Café
The latest release from the Neil Young Archives is a real treasure. Compiled from the tours with the Bluenotes bands between November 1987 and August 1988, we’re treated to two-and-a-half hours of music and 21 songs. They include no fewer than 6 previously unreleased tracks, 1 obscure b-side (‘I’m Goin”), 2 that appeared on albums only years later (‘Fool For Your Love’ and ‘Ordinary People’), 2 others that can be found only on the long-forgotten Lucky Thirteen compilation (‘Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me’ and ‘Ain’t It The Truth’), 1 work-in-progress version of a soon-to-be classic (‘Crime In The City’), and a couple of old, but greatly reworked stalwarts (‘On The Way Home’ and ‘Tonight’s The Night’). Oh and 7 tracks from This Note’s For You, including an unrecognisable version of the title track, at least if you’ve haven’t heard it since the early days of MTV or if you never made it through to the end of Lucky Thirteen. Together, the tracks are a sort of mash up of the set as it developed over those relatively short tours. This is the blues and R’n’B period. It’s all big riffs and a horn section. And when it works, it’s completely revelatory. ‘Welcome To The Big Room’ and ‘Don’t Take Your Love Away from Me’ get things off to a powerful start. ‘Ordinary People’ sounds more authentic in its original form. ‘Crime In The City’ is even snarkier here than on Freedom. And ‘On The Way Home’ is more reminiscent of the Buffalo Springfield Richie Furay version than any of the folky Neil Young releases since. But when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. This isn’t because of the style, it’s because some of the familiar songs just don’t have the legs and never did (‘Married Man’) and because a couple of the unreleased tracks are equally unremarkable (‘Hello Lonely Woman’, ‘Soul Of A Woman’). Bluenote Café isn’t a release for fans of ’70s-era Neil Young. In fact, he played only a couple of other songs from that era on the whole of the ’87-’88 tours. Instead, this is a release that shows how even if the 1980s weren’t perhaps Neil Young’s best years in the studio, there was still plenty of greatness happening live. So, let’s hope that the next release is a selection from the Life tour with Crazy Horse. Now that was a real blast.