Neil Young — A Treasure

written by: June 27, 2011
The International Harvesters A Treasure Album Art Release Date: June 14, 2011


Of the many words that can be associated with Neil Young, longevity is perhaps the most applicable. In a career spanning decades, Young has experimented with a myriad of sounds, but always seemed most at home when sticking to his folk roots.

As a live performer, Young was known for shows that were both imaginative and, in other ways, improvisational. The singer-songwriter has been known to dig deep into his catalog during concerts, even playing songs reserved specifically for the live setting.

On any given night, Young is prone to play just about anything. The only drawback of this is that a only a select few will experience each given concert. To remedy this, Young has released a live archive series for the past half-decade, meant to commemorate his prolific career in addition to supplying fans with a bevy of material.

The latest of which is A Treasure. The 12 songs collected for the record were gathered from shows that took place in between 1984 and 1985, a peculiar time in Young’s career. The tours weren’t in support of a new album—although a number of tunes that show up here wound up on his Old Ways—and he had zilch in the way label support. Having just released a pair of middle fingers to David Geffen—coming in the form of the infamous albums Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’—Young was essentially free to do as he pleased.

Enlisting the help of The International Harvesters, which included a number of legendary country music performers like Spooner Oldham and Rufus Thibodeaux, the songs have a feel of down-home romp. The opener “Amber Jean,” one of five unreleased songs on the album, is a rollicking tune, fitted with a playful violin riff and twangy lap steel guitar.

The album’s other unreleased tracks, including “Grey Riders,” “Let Your Fingers do the Walking” and “It Might Have Been,” are all definitive Young tunes, indicative of the best work he’s done at any point in his career.

Additionally, the better-known tracks don’t pale in comparison. Songs like “Motor City and “Southern Pacific” sound fantastic, fitted with guitars full and imposing. In fact, they prove to be vast improvements over their studio counterparts by avoiding the humdrum that plagued 1981’s Re-ac-tor.

These better known tracks fit in perfectly with the unreleased material, suggesting a cohesiveness many claimed Young lacked during the ‘80s. If anything, A Treasure proves that he had a firm grasp on his aesthetic, despite a string of less-than-stellar albums.

Though these shows would come just before Old Ways, Young manages to avoid the sometimes lethargic feel of that album. Here, he sounds free and loose, as if listeners are at his simple jam session. It’s quite clear in these songs that Young feels most at home when on stage, performing the songs he chooses with the people he admires.

He’s always been something of a renegade. A Treasure reinforces this idea wholeheartedly.

Neil Young – A Treasure Tracklist:

  1. “Amber Jean”
  2. “Are You Read for the Country”
  3. “It Might Have Been” (Ronnie Green & Harriet Kane)
  4. “Bound for Glory”
  5. “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking”
  6. “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong”
  7. “Motor City”
  8. “Soul of a Woman”
  9. “Get Back to the Country”
  10. “Southern Pacific”
  11. “Nothing Is Perfect”
  12. “Grey Riders”