Neil Young Archives II (Review)

After many years of promising, Neil Young finally released his Archives Vol. II. That’s eleven years after Archives Vol. I was released in 2009.  This second volume covers 1972 through 1976.  Neil will have to speed things up if he wants to release archives from the other 44 years of his career.

It’s great to get some unreleased songs and alternate versions of songs we’d only heard about, or maybe found on bootlegs.  Of the 131 songs on Archives Vol. 2, there are 12 that were not previously released, 51 songs that are unreleased alternate versions (many of them live), and 68 tracks that were previously released on Neil’s albums.

The songs are mostly from Time Fades Away, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma.  The original recordings from those albums are almost all included.  There are also versions of songs from Comes A Time, American Stars ‘n BarsRust Never Sleeps, and Hawks & Doves.  If you have those eight albums, you already own over half of the recordings in the box set.

I started collecting Neil Young songs in 1969 with Retrospective: The Best Of Buffalo Springfield.  Then I bought almost all of his studio albums up to 2005.  After that, I’ve purchased individual tracks from many of his albums.  I bought the recently released album  Homegrown, which was actually recorded in ‘74-‘75 and is in this box set.

The $250 Deluxe box set sold out (3000 units) as soon as it went on sale on Neil Young’s site in November, 2020.  More sets were made available March 5th, 2021.  There is also a $160 set (lower-priced on Amazon, $116 in March 2021) with exactly the same 10 CD’s, but without a hard-cover book.  That set is sold in stores and online retail sites, and is in iTunes for $100.  All of the tracks were also added to streaming sites on March 5th, 2021.

So, how is Archives Vol. II?  There are some gems.  The 1976 Crosby Stills Nash & Young version of “Human Highway” sounds great (the 1973 version is here too, but the harmonies are not as good).  It was going to be the title song of their album to follow-up Deja Vu and their solo work of the early ’70’s.  This version of the song was recorded during the Long May You Run sessions.  The other really good recording from that session is “Midnight On The Bay”.  If you want to know more about the lost Human Highway album, here’s the link to the article on this site, when you’re ready to check it out (it includes the audio of the songs):

Homegrown, which is on it’s own disc, had been another “lost album” that was originally supposed to be released in 1975.  It includes seven good songs that weren’t already available.

The box set has three recordings of “Love/Art Blues”, a song which was worked on during the Homegrown sessions. A solo version, and a trio version (on Disc-6 of the box set) are both very good.  The third version has a poor ending.  An impressive recording of the song can be found on the CSNY 1974 live album.  You can’t beat CSN&Y harmonies.  Proof of that is a solo version of “Through My Sails” which screams out for the harmonies of CSN (if you’re used to the Zuma version).

Other previously unreleased standouts include the first studio version of “The Bridge”, “Homefires” & “Daughters” (those two from the Homegrown sessions), and “Come Along And Say You Will” (from 1972, the same year as Harvest).  Plus, there are nice live versions of “Stringman” and “Midnight On The Bay”.  These two are on a disc separate from the three concert discs.

How valuable Archives II is to you is probably based on how many of the songs you already own.  Or, you can obviously stream the whole thing, since it’s been added to streaming services.

Now, we wait for Neil Young Archives III.  Neil says it won’t be long this time.  We’ve heard that before, but maybe at age 75 he feels a greater urgency.  We look forward to more treasures.  Update:  Neil says he hopes to have Volume III out before the end of 2023 (Yeah, that didn’t happen.).

Extra:  This playlist helps point out (in order of recording dates) some of the best studio recordings of previously unreleased songs and alternate versions.  Only four of these songs/versions were *previously available.

  1. The Bridge (11/15/72)
  2. Come Along And Say You Will (12/15/72)
  3. Homefires (6/16/74)
  4. Love Is A Rose* (6/16/74)
  5. White Line (Acoustic) [9/12/74]
  6. Frozen Man (11/4/74)
  7. Changing Highways (12/4/74)
  8. Love/Art Blues (Trio Version) [12/10/74]
  9. Try (12/11/74)
  10. Daughters (12/11/74)
  11. Deep Forbidden Lake* (12/13/74)
  12. Star Of Bethlehem* (12/13/74)
  13. Homegrown (12/13/74)
  14. We Don’t Smoke It (12/31/74)
  15. Vacancy (1/4/75)
  16. Little Wing* (1/21/75)
  17. Kansas (1/21/75)
  18. Lookin’ For Love (8/29/75)
  19. No One Seems To Know (9/11/75)
  20. Midnight On The Bay (w/CSN) [4/14/76]
  21. Human Highway (w/CSN) [4/15/76]

Fifteen of these songs…#3 though #17…were recorded during the Homegrown album sessions from mid 1974 to early 1975.  Neil Young could easily have put together another album similar in quality to After The Gold Rush, Harvest, or Comes A Time.  Instead, he released Tonight’s The Night (which he had recorded in 1973).  When he recently released Homegrown, he didn’t include some really good songs… “Homefires”, “Frozen Man”, “Love/Art Blues”, “Daughters”, and “Deep Forbidden Lake”…even though some were recorded on the same days as other songs on the album.  Fortunately, we can put the songs together in a very strong playlist like this.

Neil Young waited about 45 years to release most of these recordings.  It’s so enjoyable getting to know his “new” old songs.

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