If there was one positive to come out of the covid lockdowns then it was the time it gave Neil Young to continue working on his archives project. The latest release, one of three this month, ‘Royce Hall 1971’ is one the most entertaining and unique record of a solo Neil Young Concert ever released.
‘Royce Hall 1971’ has been around in bootleg format for a long time, but Young has lovingly remastered the original analogue tape and produced a sonic treat with the updated mix. It’s fair to say that this era of Young’s career has been well documented so far on other live releases, but two things make ‘Royce Hall 1971’ stand out from the others.
Firstly, Young himself is in great form here. Laughing and joking with his audience, his sense of humour and warmth really shine through and allow both the audience and the listener a rare insight into his often-misunderstood character. Secondly, the set list is unique in that most of the songs he played were from the ‘Harvest’ album, which wasn’t released until 1972. Nowadays it is almost impossible to imagine hearing ‘Heart of Gold’ without the audience response taking the roof of the venue, but there’s something haunting about hearing a virgin audience experiencing it alongside another future classic ‘The Needle and The Damage Done’.
Other highlights include a nine-minute humour filled version of ‘Sugar Mountain’, and fan favourites, ‘Cowgirl in The Sand’ and ‘Ohio’.
Fifty years later we all have the benefit of hindsight when it comes to Young’s career and his music. His solo shows are remarkable at any time, but ‘Royce Hall 1971’ gives an insight into a singer-songwriter, who still early in his career was writing one legendary song after another with some of his best work still to come.