Tue February 11, 2014
Neil Young continues archive series with a trip to D.C.'s Cellar Door
Neil Young has long been a staple in my own musical collection, and it would be appropriate to name Young as one of the first artists that really launched me into my passion for music. I was introduced to Neil Young at a young age, and I quickly took note of the intimacy and productivity of Young as an artist. He's always creating and sharing, through the good and bad stretches, and as he approaches age 70 he's still as prolific as ever. I recently read a review of Young's latest archive release from The World Cafe on wxpn.org that inspired me to carry on the point of the significance of this release.
In the winter of 1970, on the heels of releasing his landmark album After The Goldrush, Young performed a run of shows in a Washington D.C. room called The Cellar Door. A modest club, with a capacity of just a few hundred people, The Cellar Door was the venue for early career performances not only by Young, but some of his most notable contemporaries: Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Patti Smith to name a few. But after 16 years of musical performances, The Cellar Door called it a day in 1981, leaving a number of memories of the history that had been made there.
Live At The Cellar Door comes from a pivotal time in Young's career: Buffalo Springfield had dissolved, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young was coming to an end, and Young was approaching a stretch of years that would see some of his most defining work. Live At The Cellar Door features intimate and early performances of select After The Goldrush and then unreleased Neil Young classics.
Live At The Cellar Door comes to us at a time when live recordings seem to have lost their allure. An abundance of poor quality cell phone recordings can be found on YouTube and the like, and with live audio and video streaming so common there remains little need to physically attend a show. But this release acts as a reminder of the magic that can be captured during a live performance - the connection that can be made between performer and spectator. Young’s small audience is attentive and reverent during his undecorated performance of songs such as “Down By The River” and a piano presentation of “Cinnamon Girl." As the album closes, Neil becomes friendly with the audience, making jokes while aimlessly tinkering with his instruments before riding the piano into his sunset with the song “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong."
Even for the most casual Young fans, this is a release to be had. The special moment in Young's career that is captured here is worth some strong appreciation, as is the recording quality. Thanks to Neil Young and his camp’s prolific nature, we now have this lovely time capsule that contains memories of The Cellar Door, and Young’s new frontier. Live At The Cellar Door leaves me with the thought I’ve often had with Neil Young: With years of creating and recording, who knows what else is buried in Young’s personal collection waiting to be discovered, shared, and remembered.