Neil Young’s latest is a new slab of something old. “Live at the Cellar Door” is culled from six concerts near the end of 1970 at a small Washington, D.C. club. Capturing Young at his acoustic best, the sound quality is stellar, and the album exposes Young at a turning point. He had just released his classic “After the Gold Rush” album a few months before, and was poised for stardom.
On “Gold Rush” chestnuts Young’s voice is fresh and clear. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “Tell Me Why” are, well, heartbreaking. But it is the unusual songs that make this set so interesting. Included is a rare “Cinnamon Girl” performed solo on piano. “The Bad Fog of Loneliness” isn’t one of Young’s best songs, but hearing him play a new song in concert, even 43 years later, makes a listener feel riveted.
Some fans of the rocking Young may not find this disc electric enough, but there is plenty to like about “Live at the Cellar Door.” And if you truly want to create the seventies experience today, Young is also releasing it on 180-gram vinyl.