Look at how the time goes past: Neil Young’s 1966-1975 recordings go “Under Review”

By on May 11, 2018

Neil Young: Under Review 1966-1975 — which joins our excellent Night Flight Plus selection of feature-length Under Review music documentaries — takes an expansive look at the early musical career of one of rock’s most prolific and iconic rockers, Neil Young.

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The documentary — clocking in at 88 minutes long, and narrated by Mandy O’Neale — delves into recordings made during Young’s formative and most creative years, from his mid-60s sojourn with L.A.-based Buffalo Springfield and his recordings with CSNY, all the way through the recording of his ’70s-era “Ditch Trilogy” albums: Time Fades Away, On the Beach and the one that just might be his ’70s magnum opus, 1975’s Tonight’s the Night.

Under Review: 1966-1975 features obscure film footage — including some glorious BBC footage of Young performing solo in ’71, performing great early solo LP songs like “Old Man” — as well as clips from rare interviews and rarely-seen photos, all to a soundtrack of live and studio Neil Young recordings.

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As always, expert insights and criticism is provided by a host of rock writers and music critics, including John Einarson (author of the highly-acclaimed biography Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied: “the Canadian Years” and For What It’s Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield); Robert Christgau (formerly the senior editor for the Village Voice); Barney Hoskyns (music journalist and author of Waiting for the Sun: A Rock & Roll History of Los Angeles and several other books about west coast rock history): British rock writer Nigel Williamson (a contributing editor to Uncut/Billboard); Dave Zimmer (ex-editor of BAM and early champion of Neil Young’s music); Johnny Rogan (author of Neil Young: The Definitive Story and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Visual Documentary); and, Bruce Tergesen (the house studio engineer on Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul”), among many others.

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The focus here is almost entirely on Young’s music, and there’s scant biographical detail otherwise.

For instance, we hear very little about his marriages or relationships or that sort of stuff unless it impacts on his career (we’re told that Young wrote some of his best songs when his personal life was in a shambolic state but given few details).

In particular, we thought Canadian rock writer John Einarson offered up particularly insightful comments about Young’s Canadian musical roots, and we admit we had a cheap laugh at Robert Christgau’s comment about Young’s On the Beach, which he says is a great record “if you can imagine it as one being made by an artist masturbating by the fireplace.”

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The filmmakers cheat a bit by including some footage from Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps concert video, which occurred three years after 1975.

For the most part, though, the focus is on the first ten years of Young’s musical life, ending with the Neil Young & Crazy Horse recording of Zuma, recorded at his studio at Broken Arrow Ranch in Redwood City, CA, and at Pt. Dume, on the beach in California (Young wrote most of the songs on Zuma while living on Sea Level Drive in nearby Malibu).

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Zuma — released on November 10, 1975, just five months after Tonight’s the Night — features one of his epic guitar workouts, the monumental “Cortez the Killer, which, according to Young’s liner notes for the subsequent Decade compilation, was banned in Spain under Francisco Franco.

That claim may be dubious, however, since Zuma was released while Franco was reportedly incapacitated and on his death bed (he died ten days later).

Read more about Neil Young: Under Review 1966-1975 below.

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On September 20th of 2016, the Flood Magazine music blog shared several Neil Young photographs (circa 1966-1975) taken by legendary rock photographer and all-around great guy Henry Diltz (we’re sharing some of Henry’s intimate portraits in this post). Have a look.

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Earlier this month (May 2018), Neil Young, bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina and multi-instrumentalist Nils Lofgren played three nights in Fresno followed by two more in Bakersfield, California.

That same band — originally dubbed the “Santa Monica Flyers,” with the addition of the late great pedal steel player Ben Keith — had helped launch the venerable West Hollywood venue the Roxy in September of ’73.

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A collection of performances culled from their 1973 concerts was recently released as Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live.

The excellent live album is just the first of many archival releases tied to opening of the Neil Young Archives, launched late last year as a free HQ streaming service (it will eventually become a subscription model).

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Young recently told Yahoo Entertainment‘s Lyndsey Parker that other planned releases include not only “four or five Crazy Horse albums that have never been heard…” but also the long-form, 35-minute Trans video from 1982.

Young and Michah Nelson, son of Willie Nelson and frequent Young collaborator, have also made an animated video, promising it will help clarify what the Trans album narrative was all about.

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Neil Young + Promise of the Real — featuring Willie Nelson’s son Lukas — will be making an appearance at the Arroyo Seco Festival in Pasadena, CA, on June 23, 2018.

They will also be joining Willie Nelson’s third annual “Outlaw Music Festival Tour” on September 23rd, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Paradox, a “Loud Poem” by director Daryl Hannah (with music by Young + Promise of the Real) is now streaming on Netflix.

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Watch Neil Young: Under Review 1966-1975 on Night Flight Plus, and if you’re a fan of Neil Young’s music and want to see more, check out this post about Here We Are in the Years: Neil Young’s Music Box.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.