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4.0 out of 5 stars
Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 [CD + DVD]
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2008
If you are a Neil Young fan my advice is not to hesitate in buying this. Granted it is not as an assured a performance as Massey Hall but as a historical document of one of the most important artists of the 20th Century it is essential. This is Neil Young as a shy unsure 22 year old stepping out of the shadow of Stephen Stills in his first solo concert since the break up with the Buffalo Springfield, It's fantastically intimate with a lot of amusing anecdotes and stories even taking requests at one point. He audibly displays a nervousness in his ability that no release has ever highlighted, it is utterly compelling. The material is taken mostly from his first solo album but includes his best known Springfield tracks (a lot of which were sung by Richie Furay and not Neil) also includes Birds which was re-recorded for After the Goldrush and Sugar Mountain the same version which was included on Decade.
A word of warning as it is bound to come up and someone will cry rip off as on Amazon.com at present. The DVD is a DVD-Audio disc (commonly abbreviated as DVD-A) and is a digital format for delivering very high-fidelity audio content on a DVD. DVD-Audio is not intended to be a video delivery format and should not be confused with video DVDs containing concerts and music videos. It's actually very good value for money and gives you the same material on 2 different formats. If you don't have a DVD-Audio player then play the CD, as someone who has a DVD-A player I have the CD to enjoy in the car.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Neil Young not long after Buffalo Springfield and way before he hit his stride with `Everybody knows..' and `Harvest'. This live album find Neil young in fine form telling stories and setting mental pictures for many of the songs which would later appear on his first two solo album.
Just acoustic guitar and vocal it is all you really need a two channel recording replicated very well from a 40 year old tape. The show while not quite as good as the Masey Hall release from last year is still a very compelling listen.
The bonus is that this comes with a DVD which gives anyone with a DVD player the opportunity to listen to the concert at maximum fidelity (there is not much video content but who cares it's about the music). As with most of Neil Young's recent releases this comes in a gatefold paper sleeve with a disc in each side. Reminiscent of the old days of LP's but with the need for much stronger spectacles.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2009
... you can't really be disappointed with Neil's live albums (though some reviewers seem to be). I used to get disappointed by the way he would often choose to omit tracks I really wanted to hear, but that doesn't matter anymore. I just find the various selections and performances fascinating, as any Neil Young fan should with this release. In terms of context, history and artistic development, this record is absolutely essential - a chance to hear Neil before the release of his first solo album, when his future was yet to be decided. Try imagining hearing this performance at the time, not knowing what you know now.

Previous reviewers have already mentioned the selections that are on this album. I'll just go so far as to say that, as usual, it's the songs you weren't expecting to be impressed by that impress most. For me, it was "If I Could Have Her Tonight" and "I've Been Waiting For You", tracks that weren't favourites of mine from the first album as well as "Out Of My Mind".

Throughout Neil's voice is strong and his playing steady. The sparse arrangements highlight the imagination present in Neil's songwriting. Sure, the inbetween song banter can only be described as goofy, but the artistry present in the writing and performance is professional, even virtuoso.

It is fascinating (the first time, at least) to hear Neil's banter, but it is a little lengthy and silly at times to make repeated listenings comfortable. I guess it's lucky we have MP3 players now so that we can trim the performance down a little - even if that goes against Neil's intention to provide the highest quality sound possible.

In summation, if you're fanatical about Neil Young, you will need to get this at some point. If you're not sure, there's a chance this record might make your mind up.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2008
Buffalo Springfield could have been a very big band indeed. Nevertheless, due to infighting and Neil Young's continual restlessnness, they became a group lauded only by musos. Hence the slightly nervous and goofy chatter that punctuates this release; Neil Young's future was by no means certain. Indeed his first album would sell poorly and, just like Bob Dylan, would quickly release a magnificent follow up in an attempt to cancel it out.
This concert from 1968 predates that first album and indeed appears to be a very rare early solo venture fresh out of Springfield's security. The chatter shouldn't come as such a surprise, his humour was evident all through Massey Hall though in an albeit more subdued sense. The music is genuinely what counts and here we have such a collection of songs that we are only likely to hear Neil sing live on this cd/dvd and that makes it such an attractive buy.
On The Way Home kicks it off, the same as Massey Hall as it happens. The version here doesn't match up to that by any means, though the follow up Mr Soul is strummed to such a different beat to any I've heard that it immediately pricks one's ears up. The next two songs really raise the stakes though; an acoustic Expecting To Fly (without a doubt my favourite Sprinfield era Neil Young song) which is gorgeous, and a version of Last Trip To Tulsa which is far more urgent and less rambling than the album version.
There follows The Loner (like Mr Soul this is strummed in a quite unique style) and Birds which was eventually released as a piano version on After The Gold Rush. It sounds like it would have sounded at least as good if it had remained a guitar song. Another Springfield song follows (Out Of My Mind). For those unfamiliar with his demos on the Springfield box set, this will come as a revelation.
If I Could Have Her Tonight is followed by the familiar Sugar Mountain. Although previously released its still a beautiful song and its great to hear it in its context. I've Been Waiting For You, one of the better songs on his debut is here stripped down to its bare bones and sounds fantastic. The collection is rounded up by Springfield songs Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (how wonderful to finally hear Neil's vocals on this one), Broken Arrow (the sound collage of the studio version is again stripped down to just an acoustic accomanpaniment, which seems impossible but he pulls it off with gusto) and also The Old Laughing Lady from his first album.
Overall, this is a compelling listen. I've tried to concentrate on the songs rather than the chatter. These 'raps' are quite charming but don't add anything to the experience other than to inform us that Neil was in a position where the future was a blank page and he was young, inexperienced (in a solo sense) and nervous. But it is such a cracking listen and the songs really hold up. He was clearly something of a songwriting genius early on and his voice is as pure as a mountain stream. The only reason I haven't awarded it 5 stars is because it simply doesn't measure up to Massey Hall 1971. That was so outstanding, a piece of perfection when Neil's star was in the ascendant. This is more an early and momentary glimpse into the shifting nature of Neil Young's muse, a trait that marks him to this day.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Nothing I say up here is a lie. I have never ever told a lie onstage," says Neil Young during one of his between-song audience chats in this intriguing show. Besides the chat (and an impromptu snatch of "Classical Gas", of all things), the set consists of solo versions of songs he wrote while in Buffalo Springfield (which had disbanded in May of this year), songs from his first album (released in the same month as this performance) and a few songs that weren't to appear for a long time. Chief among these is the title track, which was on the b-side of several Neil Young singles (I first heard it backing "Heart Of Gold") before it was released on his "Decade" compilation. Hearing the whole set here puts the song in context of a surprisingly engaging performance by this young man (just approaching his 23rd birthday), as he chats about song origins, asks the audience for requests and produces in some compelling readings of classics such as "Out Of My Mind", "Broken Arrow" and "Expecting To Fly".

This was an inspired Christmas present from my brother, and can be strongly recommended. As others have commented, the CD is accompanied by a DVD containing a higher resolution version of the same tracks. There's no video of the show, but there is an entertaining trailer for the much-anticipated Archive series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2009
Neil has frequently said he hated the production on his eponymous debut & hearing the tracks from that on this CD you understand why. Stripped down to their basics - along with glorious acoustic versions of Buffalo Springfield's best - they sound so much better. As with Massey Hall, the release of which was jettisoned in favour of Harvest, this should be "Neil Young". Ok so it's one for purists/completists but with the exception of The Old Laughing Lady all of the tracks are better than what appeared on vinyl 40 years ago
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2009
Having been a fan of Neil Young longer than I care to think about and having purchased many of his albums over the years I felt somewhat reluctant to buy another one of his albums containing what amounted to be nothing more than old material. No matter how much I love his music the thought did pop into my head just how many more times do I really want to buy the same old songs. The problem I see it is when you are a fan of Neil Young, and I am sure that many will agree with me on this point, is that it is hard to resist temptation. Weakening in the face of temptation I ordered my copy of Sugar Mountain and soon found that I was not to be disappointed. It was a pleasure listening to the album for the first time and I am sure that I will enjoy many more hours of pleasure listening to it again and again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is my favourite Neil Young album (and I have every one!) This is because Neil is at his most naive, pure and showing the sense of humour that only seems to leave him when he is on stage. Previous reviewers have commented on the quality of each song, I just want to agree with them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2008
The great thing about all these archive releases so far is the amount of care and loving attention to detail that has obviously gone into their creation. This is hardly a rush release- Neil Young is not taking advantage of the near mythic status of the archives to line his purse. I get the distinct impression that this is very much a labour of love - hence the ridiculously long waits.

The quality of the actual recordings is augmented by the quality of the presentation. The fact that this particular release seems to only be available in a combo CD/ DVD version shows that Neil wants people to enjoy this release in its optimum format.

I think the archives so far has been something special, not something that we have ever really seen before in these type of releases. Neil Young is breaking new ground here and we're all along for the ride!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2009
This concert, I believe, was Neil's first major solo gig after splitting from Buffalo Springfield and was put on to guage public reaction to his solo act. Playing mainly old BS numbers and songs from his debut album, this unique recording perfectly captures a tentative and nervous Neil Young at the start of his solo career. He still hasn't quite found the confidence to fully project that special voice of his (as in the stunning Massey Hall concert) but, nevertheless, this is an album that no Neil Young fan should be without.
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