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Archive Vol. 1

Shakey’s long awaited archives box set

Rating: 10 / 10

Peter Murphy, 01 Jul 2009

Holy cow, it’s here at last: the first installment of the decades-threatened box set of Neiler’s archives, spanning the years 1963 to 1972, from his earliest days with the Squires right up to the haymaking early ‘70s solo era. That’s 128 songs, 43 of them previously unreleased, in CD, DVD and Blu-Ray format – including archive photographs, timelines and bio material, plus the Antonioni-like stoner documentary Journey Through The Past.

For the long-time Young devotee masquerading as reviewer, this is akin to having the Nag Hammadi scrolls, debriefed CIA files and unedited Zapruder footage delivered to your door, with instructions to file a 300-word report within the week.

You won’t hear any complaints from this end, although you will have to bear with us and consider this an overview rather than deep probe analysis (later for that, at the Friday night lumberjack-shirt-stringy-hair-and-weirdy-beard convention that happens round our local every Friday).

Sound quality is, as one would expect, state of the art. The early years yield exotic instrumental surf tunes like ‘Aurora’, with tremelo-heavy Duane Eddy twangarama, gongs and tidal sounds, plus British invasion type tunes (including one fascinating early draft of ‘Don’t Cry No Tears Around Me’), scratchy folk airs, stomping blues rags and assorted oddities. The Buffalo Springfield period is sterling stuff too: ruffle shirted folk-rock that plays like a cross between Arthur Lee and the Big O: a majestic ‘Expecting To Fly’, a bristling ‘Mr Soul’, an indignant ‘Down To The Wire’.

The remainder is made up of a triptych of Topanga Canyon compilations, spanning the early solo albums plus Stray Gators and Crazy Horse hook-ups, CSN&Y oldies and three indispensable live albums. The first of these is a gorgeously recorded show at the Riverboat in ’69 (dry asides in abundance), the pristine Massey Hall set issued last year, and an absolute stormer of a Crazy Horse blowout recorded at the Fillmore East in ’72, containing extended (and I mean extended) versions of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’, ‘Down By The River’ and ‘Cowgirl In the Sand’. Witness the Horse in their prime: a limber rhythm section, wailing solos, close harmonies… Kill me now.

Archives Vol 1 is a secret history of Neil that evokes all the great box sets, from Nuggets to the Basement Tapes to Miles’ electric recordings, all channelled through Neil’s weird and wonderful x-ray ears. What a trip.

Key Track: ‘Down By The River’

Rating: 10 / 10
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