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Neil Young

Live at Massey Hall 1971 (Reprise)

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This Toronto performance has been widely bootlegged over the years, but the official release is still essential because the sound is just impeccable, lending a cavernous depth to Young's singing and playing. This can be attributed to the late David Briggs, Young's longtime producer, who also did the sound for the show.

Briggs tried to convince Young to release this set as the follow-up to 1970's After the Gold Rush. Although he failed, it's easy to understand Briggs' angle; these are dark, chilling numbers. Young's voice hits dramatic highs on "Tell Me Why" and "Cowgirl in the Sand," while "A Man Needs a Maid" -- amplified by an interlude of "Heart of Gold," where he sounds adrift on a pitch-black sea -- is Young at his most misanthropic.

Thanks to the bonus DVD, we can witness the mood Young set for the shows. Lit only by a single spotlight and surrounded by his army of acoustics, he looks as if he's performing in the middle of his own abyss. It's exactly the kind of mood Briggs always tried to drag out of him.

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