The second volume of Neil Young's Archives series, Live at Massey Hall, preserves a 1971 acoustic show at the Toronto venue. It may seem to cover familiar ground to the outside observer who assumes all solo acoustic Young concerts sound the same, but that, of course, is not the case with an artist as mercurial and willful as Young. Live at Massey Hall is a remarkably rich set of songs, touching on nearly every aspect of Young's personality, whether it's his sweetness, his sensitivity, his loneliness, or even his often-neglected sense of fun. This concert was a legendary bootleg for nearly four decades, and its release is something special: it adds detail, color, and texture to a familiar chapter of his career, rendering it fresh once more.
Ever since he started rumbling about releasing his archives some 20, 30 years ago – it's been so long, it's hard to keep track of the specifics – Neil Young talked about it as a mammoth box set, or perhaps a series of box sets each chronicling a different era in his career, comprised entirely of unreleased recordings, some live, some studio…
All the kudos Neil Young earned for Rust Never Sleeps he lost for Live Rust, the double-LP live album released four months later.
Given the quirkiness of Neil Young's recording career, with its frequent cancellations of releases and last-minute rearrangements of material, it is a relief to report that this two-disc compilation is so conventional and so satisfying. A 35-track selection of the best of Young's work between 1966 and 1976, it includes songs performed by Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Stills-Young Band, as well as solo work.