We got the Beat
Neil Young dreams big
Neil Young, “Dreamin’ Man” (Reprise)
Even by Neil Young standards, releasing another album celebrating his past catalog six months after the much anticipated unveiling of the eight disc monolith box set, “The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972,” is a bit quirky.
By any other artist, the timing of “Dreamin’ Man” could be misconstrued as a quick payday release. From a less accomplished songwriter, this live reworking of 1992’s “Harvest Moon” album could look like a quasi-greatest hits offering for the holidays that serves the dual purpose of filling another album release requirement in his contract.
This is Neil Young, however, a political and emotional statesman who never releases two albums that are the same, even if the songs are the same as on a previous studio album.
As constructed by Young, however, “Dreamin’ Man” is more like a teaser for what’s to come in future volumes of archive boxes or the still-growing “Archive Performance Series” releases of past concert work.
It’s as if Young decided that skipping ahead 20 years in the process of building his own time capsule to get this acoustic live rendering of one of his most potent studio works into the hands of fans outweighed the need to release his archival tomb sequentially.
(Exhibit A: The disc is subtitled “Neil Young Archive Performance Series #12,” even though it is only the fifth release in that series. You do the math.)
Regardless of the method to Young’s madness, the results can’t be denied as anything but a gift for the eardrum. Culled from performances of the songs from the 1992 “Harvest Moon” tour, “Dreaming’ Man” curiously reinvents the 10 tracks by taken away the multi-layered musicianship that was the studio albums hallmark.
Stripped to all but the barest of acoustic strings, the emphasis is firmly placed on Young’s wheezing falsetto and melancholy poetry. Curiously, the songs were not in the same order as they were on “Harvest Moon.” Moving the songs “Dreamin’ Man,” “Such A Woman” and “One Of These Days,” while pushing “Unknown Legend” and “From Hank to Hendrix” to the middle arc makes the album feel reborn.
Where “Harvest Moon” was the story of a man in his mid-40s feeling the constraints of his own mortality, “Dreamin’ Man” is a much more carefree look back by a man in his mid-60s who no longer fears death, but only fears not enjoying every moment of the rest of his life to the fullest.
Rarely has a storyteller taken a novel, shuffled up the chapters and come up with a completely different, yet equally fulfilling, experience for his audience.
Far from being a greatest hits offering or any sort of quickie release, “Dreamin’ Man” is a fully-realized vision with a sound level consistent enough to make listeners believe Young had this album in mind when recording these acoustic renditions 17 years ago.
Listen to the song "Harvest Moon" from "Dreamin' Man"
Adobe Flash Required for flash player.