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Heart of Gold
by FREE! Magazine
2007-03-21 10:39:04
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Neil Young - Heart Of Gold
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Paramount, 2006

Like the cycles of the moon, the music of Neil Young has very predictable phases. The electric storm of Crazy Horse is usually followed by the peaceful sounds of his acoustic works. In 1996, director Jim Jarmusch filmed the definitive concert movie about Crazy Horse during the band’s European Tour. Ten years later another popular filmmaker, Jonathan Demme, does the same by creating the definitive document of Neil Young’s "Harvest" side.

The concert movie Neil Young - Heart of Gold presents the song from Young’s album , Prairie Wind plus a collection of old songs. The concert is shot at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Everything in the show seems to be based in Nashville, places, songs, musicians, sounds, customs... It is the most country side of the singer.

The camera takes the role of the audience. There are no shots of the crowd. The viewer is in first row. Even more, he is taken to the stage. Demme nails it and he is able to capture the gestures and expression of every musician. One outstanding point of the film is how the camera captures the look of the artists. Just how the look and how they interact to each other. There is a special magic on it and the viewer is part of it.

This is a great achievement since it actually saves the show and it makes it something special. During the Prairie Wind songs, there is a lack of spontaneity and the show seems a little bit over rehearsed.

The concert itself shows Neil Young accompanied by long time collaborators (Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Emmylou Harris), Nashville musicians and, in some songs a gospel chorus, horns and strings sections to add all the details the songs in Prairie Wind contain. Neil Young shows himself relaxed, fully recovered from the brain aneurysm and in a very honest and stripped down attitude talking about his father’s dead, his family and his childhood memories. In a way, Neil Young is just the opposite from the mysterious, unkind attitude Bob Dylan uses to show.

The overall result is beautiful, a concert movie with a quality much above the average. It will remain as the testimony of a very high and emotional point in the late part of Neil Young’s career.

That is the old Neil Young. One year after the release of this film, Young has opened the vault. The long-awaited “Archives” project is ongoing. A box-set with eight CDs and two DVDS is expected to be released sometime this year, say in for the run-up to Christmas. But as an appetizer the live CD/DVD Live at Massey Hall has just been released. It presents a very young Neil Young, playing a solo acoustic set in 1971. It was one of darkest periods for the Canadian singer, just before the released of the commercial success of Harvest (1972). He played very moving unreleased songs at the time like The Needle And The Damage Done, See The Sky About To Rain and Old Man.

Live at Massey Hall and Heart of Gold show the best moments, in his twenties and in his sixties, of one of the best songwriters of the last fifty years.

By Eduardo Alonso

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Bryan2007-03-21 17:45:30
I am awashed with misty eyed nostalgia. late night, 1970,After the Gold Rush,pure genius.

Asa2007-03-21 18:51:32
Good review!

Alan2007-03-21 20:44:25
wow! I want to get it NOW!

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