“Studios are passe for me. I’d rather play in a garage, in a truck, or a rehearsal hall, a club, or a basement.” — Neil Young
If one man has perfected the ‘live release’, it simply has to be Neil Young. One of the most comprehensive live album artists around, what Young hasn’t captured on stage isn’t worth talking about. As such, we saw fit to grab as many of his live albums as we could (including his hallowed Archives Vol. 1 record) to create a mammoth 419-track playlist of his imperious live performances. It’s the perfect way to get lost in an evening.
Few artists have been as prolific as Neil Young in their career. Never deterred by workload or expectation, Young has always been his own master and has made sure that everything he has done has been an accurate reflection of him. “I don’t like to be labelled, to be anything. I’ve made the mistake before myself of labelling my music, but it’s counter-productive,” Young once said in a quote that typifies his approach to music. “The thing about my music is, there really is no point,” he added, nonchalantly. “I just do what I do. I like to make music.” That has transpired across studio sessions and into his live album release too.
There are over 30 albums that one could call a ‘live’ album in Neil Young’s repertoire, and that’s only considering his solo material. If you branch out and start to look at offerings from the other aspects of his musical life, that number grows even further. Admittedly, some of the records that are regarded as such likely play a few different roles, for example, Archives Vol. 1, which captures all of Young’s recordings, meaning live tracks, and some studio session. No matter which way you look at it, Young is one of the leading lights in this field, and it all comes down to Young’s outlook on life.
“One new feature or fresh take can change everything,” Young once said of rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s an ethos he’s lived his life by. Never determined to create one particular sound or narrate one story, Young has always sought to continue to evolve and push forward his artistic creation. The singer-songwriter has also always put live music at the top of his agenda, recognising the different atmospheric qualities a setting can bring to a song.
From his first moments on to the live album circuit with Young Shakespeare, which is getting its second release very soon, Young has continuously elevated his sound. Continuing with Time Fades Away he’s pushed himself creatively all the way until the 2020 release of Way Down in the Rust Bucket, which saw Young reimagine his live show from the seventies and release it, ready and raring, for a brand new audience.
Unfortunately, not every single live album is available for inclusion, but, across 419 songs, in the playlist below, we get a chance to see Young in his natural habitat. Although he’s always been a wizard in the studio, it is on stage that he excels. If you ever needed a helpful reminder as to why Neil Young is regarded as one of the greats, then pres splay on the playlist below and prepare to be stunned.