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Published:December 19th, 2013 08:43 EST
Neil Young`s 'Live At the Cedar Door' Is A Valuable Audio Archive for That Time, 1970!

Neil Young`s 'Live At the Cedar Door' Is A Valuable Audio Archive for That Time, 1970!

By John G. Kays

I caught part of the NPR story on my car  radio, covering the December 10th release of Neil Young Live At The Cellar Door. I seem to remember bootlegs of this stuff from this period, floating around the circuit of devotees (which comprised a sizable multitude); this would be in Boston, Fall 1971 semester at Boston University, where I found myself after graduating from high school in Dallas, Texas. I do remember listening to After The Gold Rush (perpetually) with dorm friends while jamming on acoustic guitars, and of course, passing Js the entire time. Neil himself references this culture on the tape with introductory comments made before Flying On The Ground Is Wrong (on Buffalo Springfield`s first album, recorded September 10th, 1966).

Other music writers have already commented on how good this live record sounds, but I`ll just throw in my two cents in saying it certainly does sound wonderfully clear, a direct transfer of acoustic guitars, upright piano, and carefully expressed vocals, captured on acetate (then preserved somewhere unknown to me, for Neil to spring forth out of the can). You can`t over-emphasize the miracle of this phenomenon of audio engineering! Further elaboration is called for, going back to when they originally recorded the shows, all the way down to the mix down at Redwood Digital (Redwood City, CA) by John Nowland and Tim Mulligan.

So reel to reels can remain in good shape after 43 years? I wish that were true for me; I feel a great deal of regret for not taking better care of my reels, so I wonder what they did to preserve them so good? I suppose one thing they did, was to keep the tapes in a cool facility. I`ve often left mine in a hot garage and the tapes may have melted in the Texas heat; well, some of the tapes sustained water damage from when I was living over by Fair Park. Still, I`m listening to Live At the Cellar Door on fairly decent headphones (Audio Technica), but it sounds like I`m right there with the audience in Georgetown.

I read in the Rolling Stone blurb on the record, (at the time) Neil was demoing his show he was to do at the Carnegie Hall in December of 1970. This would explain why he is trying so hard to sing and play, with everything he had. Then, he knew also, he was recording the shows, and probably suspected these performances would be bootlegged. This is speculation on my part, and maybe these shows weren`t ever bootlegged, but it was good call, don`t you think?

Well, I`m skipping on the weathered, scratchy vinyl groove, I beg your pardon; some of Neil`s greatest songs are on this record: you know, Tell Me Why, After The Gold Rush (how `bout Neil`s piano playing on that one?), Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Expecting To Fly, and best of all (my favorite), Old Man, which defined the Generation Gap for me, as I (painfully) was trying to grow up, yet was running into significant problems. Noteworthy, is that this version of Old Man comes before he recorded it for Harvest. Neil may have just written Old Man? I`ll need to research that, however.

I wonder what ever happened to my over-played copy of After The Gold Rush? For that matter, what happened to my college buddies I listened to Neil with, up there at BU? Glad that Neil has preserved his audio documents from a time when he was a rising star; he`s still a major Rock Star today, but once another 20 years passes by, it may be this skinny, long haired musician from 1970, that apparently represented my generation superbly, who fades into the Sunset of Our American Collective Memory.