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Saturday, June 06, 2009

I have a pretty complete Neil Young set for the period covered in the gargantuan "Archives Volume 1", on vinyl. And I have "Decade" on CD. I've always kind of wanted to see "Journey Through the Past", but I'm thinking that a 10 disk Blu-ray set is kinda like a swimming pool-- it's better if someone you know owns it.

Because they are similar artists, and very nearly similarly important, it is interesting to think about how Young and Dylan are approaching the release of this kind of documentary material. Both are being very hands-on about it, but Young is apparently more of a completist, and seems to think we should be too. One of the reasons that Young's back pages are being released now-- 19 years after Dylan started his "Bootleg Series" is that Young, who is somewhat technology-obsessed (it's one of his chief themes, when you consider it) held off until there was a format that would accommodate high quality audio and video.

Certainly Young merits this sort of release, but it's harder to know who needs it, and disgorging a 10 disk, $280 buck set is not a particularly consumer-friendly move, no matter how nice the packaging. I'd contrast this with the gradual rollout of James Brown's singles collections. Just because an artist is prolific doesn't mean that we need all of it all at once. I also question how essential it is to have a release like this emphasize the visual. Everybody seems to want to include video, but let's face it, odds are that if you are into the music you play the music a lot more than you ever watch concert footage or whatever. I mean, I ran right out and bought "No Direction Home" after it aired on PBS, but I'd have to duct-tape my family to the couch to get them to watch it, so it sits on the shelf. You'd really have to be in a Neil Young mood to want to sit down and watch the 71 Massey Hall concert more than once, and I don't care how much you love "Sugar Mountain".

Presumably as Young moves forward with this project the concert footage will get more interesting-- the "Rust Never Sleeps" tour, which is my favorite period, featured shows with a lot of quirky flair, and now that I think of it, I'd like to see Neil tearing into "Like A Hurricane" and "Cortez the Killer" and a few others too.

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