This second release in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series, features 17 songs recorded on January 19, 1971 at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada. At the time, it marked Young’s triumphant return to his home country—which he’d left in 1966—after a string of wildly successful ventures in the U.S. that had included a two-year stint in Buffalo Springfield, a self-titled solo release, the breakthrough album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu, and his best-selling record, After the Gold Rush.
Young’s producer David Briggs reportedly lobbied hard at the time to release a live album from the Massey Hall performance, but Young refused to do so, preferring instead to finish and release his upcoming studio gem, Harvest.
Young sounds totally inspired as he treats the audience to a mix of tunes that draw from pretty much every album he’d made to that point—everything from “Man Needs a Maid” and “Bad Fog of Loneliness” to several future hits that hadn’t yet been released at the time, such as “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold,” and “The Needle and the Damage Done.” The solo performance showcases the genius of the then 24-year-old singer-songwriter, and Young backs it up with superlative fingerpicking throughout. And when he switches to piano during the set he often uses the opportunity to talk about the origins of the new songs—some of which were destined to be among the most definitive of his career. One of the best things about Live at Massey Hall is how well it’s recorded. The sparkling clarity and richness of this album, which was produced by Young and the late David Briggs, makes it one of the best currently available ways to hear what an early ’70s Neil Young solo concert was all about. (Stay tuned for the eight-CD/two-DVD Archives Volume I collection due out this fall.).