Bad Fog of Loneliness

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This concert recording from Massey Hall, Toronto 1971 shows Neil Young at his most contemplative and singer-songwriter-ish. Don’t let that put you off early Neil, as even at this stage he had the edge, darkness and wit to make James Taylor and Jackson Browne look like singing nuns.

Part of what’s special about this album is its early showcasing of songs from Harvest, which would later become popular classics; Old Man, Heart of Gold, etc. As an extended showcase of Young’s songwriting and acoustic guitar ability, this live record, to me, is unparalleled. The feint, shy backstories he gives about the origin of the songs and the beauty and depth of the songs themselves show that this man’s lyricism and songwriting capacity seems inexhaustible. Not even Dylan could approach the raw honesty and indecipherably complex flow of emotion in Young’s work, let alone sustain it almost without falter for some 50 years. Even his flops have meaning. ‘I know that some of you don’t understand’, he sings with despondent sorrow in The Needle and the Damage Done.

Live at Massey Hall shows us better than almost any album Neil Young’s modesty and humility towards his audience. He neither tries to desperately entertain them nor shuns them in uncaring gloom. He simply plays and lets his emotion flow directly from his voice and fingers, totally naked. He treats the performance not merely as a setlist but as a 67-minute travel through his mind in all its angst, happiness and obscurity. As the original review in the Toronto Star says: ‘There is, not to put too fine a point to it, no crap about him.’

But even Neil knows you should always end a show with a stompin’ hoedown…

And even his hoedowns are deeply personal.

On the video above, the song lasts around 2 minutes, and the raucous applause goes on almost ceaselessly for 3 minutes. Make of that what you will…

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2 thoughts on “Bad Fog of Loneliness

  1. Hmm, I happen to like singing nuns and don’t take kindly to your using them as a pejorative reference. I will never listen to this now, just to punish you.

    Like

  2. Domi-nique -nique -nique s’en allait tout simplement,
    Routier, pauvre et chantant.
    En tous chemins, en tous lieux,
    Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu,
    Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

    Etc, etc, etc.

    I rest my case…

    Liked by 1 person

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