Neil Young Archives Volume I: 1963-1972

THE MEDIA PRESENTATION FOR THE LONG-AWAITED RELEASE of the Neil Young Archives was held in a suite at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, and as I had stupidly neglected to ask the concierge for directions, I seemed doomed to wander the grand palace’s catacomb-like hallways. Luckily, I was guided by Young’s unmistakable voice drifting down the corridor, and I was soon sitting in a plush room watching—and hearing—a demonstration of the Blu-ray edition. The impact of the sound itself was immediately astounding. The Blu-ray’s high-resolution 24- bit/192kHz audio captures every pick attack, vocal rasp, and percussive ring with a “you are there” quality that would be just an empty marketing cliché if it weren’t true. I’ve been a recording engineer for decades, and I know what a master tape sounds like, and this is master-quality audio. So if you’re waffling between buying the NYA DVD edition, or finally investing in Blu-ray gear, there’s no contest if you’re a sound hound.

“It’s ironic that recording technology has gotten to the point where it can finally offer such realism, and yet the popular delivery medium is designed for a data-compressed mp3,” said filmmaker Larry Johnson, who has worked with Young since 1970.

As the crew—which included long-time Young archivist Joel Bernstein—unveiled the navigation process for the one of the NYA discs, I was surprised at just how much of himself Young has packed into this release. Just the few snippets screened for the press included a “guerilla” acoustic gig, Young confronting a shopkeeper who was selling CSN&Y bootlegs, Young teaching the riff to “Cinnamon Girl” to a kid who approached him in a park, Young motoring around his acreage, Young bemusedly discussing some of his old reviews, arranger Jack Nitzsche helping Young during a session with the London Symphony Orchestra, and Young recording in his barn.

“We had cameras around all the time, because Neil has always been interested in film,” said Johnson. “And we’ve been assembling all this stuff for decades, but we waited until technology caught up with what Neil envisioned for the Archives. He didn’t want this material released on videotape, and he wasn’t all that happy with DVD. It wasn’t until Blu-ray where we thought the media would do the material full justice, visually and sonically.”

The Archives also serve up scores of images, including scans of handwritten lyric sheets (complete with corrections and changes), old reviews and articles, and original master tape boxes, as well as rare photos, album artwork, and other pieces of Young’s creative life. There’s so much stuff that it could take months to get through it all, and, in fact, you may never get through it, because the Blu-ray format allows Young to constantly update the collection as new material becomes available.

“When you start up your NYA Blu-ray, there may be a ‘stick it’ from me on one of the virtual file cabinets that spans my musical career,” says Young in a message on the NYA site ( “I may ask you if you would like new content. An example might be early pictures of Buffalo Springfield that we just found in Amsterdam. This content may be added to your collection just by requesting it.”

This exhaustive set—which is truly a technological, sonic, and media-delivery marvel whether you’re a Young zealot or not—is priced at $299 for the Blu-ray Edition, $199 for the Standard DVD Edition, and $99 for a CD-only edition. You also can order individual Blu-ray ($34) and DVD ($25) discs.