Review: Neil Young - "Dreamin' Man Live '92"
I love all those dudes. Dylan, Waits, Wainwright, Drake, Cohen, Parsons, Springsteen, Buckley, Newman, Morrison, Stills, Stevens, Donovan, Thompson, Nilsson, Simon, Prine - all those folk-infected '60s- and '70s-era songwriters. Townes Van Zandt is my king and I even quite like early records from James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett. But, of all those huge, influential talents, one has always stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. He’s the man I go to in my darkest hour, when I’m broke, fired, failed, dumped, ugly and hopeless. He’s Neil Percival Young, and the sweet vulnerability and sincerity of his voice and writing has, more times than I care to admit, been my saving grace. My brother. My dad. My best friend.
And so I’ve long made a point to try to buy all his albums. This was never a problem until recently. In the past four or so years, since starting his Neil Young Archives Performance Series, I’ve had to cut back, as the man has just been releasing far too many discs for my wallet to handle. Just last year, for example, he released an epically expensive box set that I’ll never be able to afford. He’s been releasing at least one archival live album per year and only months ago reissued his first four studio albums (which, by the way, are worth the investment). All this while still releasing a new studio album every 18 or so months. I love ya, Neil, but damn, how many generations of kin do you hope to spoil?
So when I first saw Dreamin’ Man: Live ‘92 in stores I wasn’t surprised – the flood continues. The record saw little-to-no press coverage and exactly zero of my friends (most of whom love Neil) have ever mentioned the record to me. People are burnt out on Neil right now; a shame, considering Dreamin’ Man is one of the most worthwhile releases yet from Young’s Archives Series. The ’92 gives it away: Dreamin’ Man is a live solo performance of Young’s 1992 studio record, Harvest Moon.
Harvest Moon never grabbed me quite like Young’s other quiet, twangy records, such as Harvest, After the Goldrush and Comes a Time. The record just didn’t seem to feel as personal and emotional as those other classics and always felt weird sandwiched between Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels in the Young chronology. But now, with Dreamin’ Man, I’m hearing the ten-song set with new ears. And it’s beautiful. These songs, every last one of them, are worth getting to know. And I have. I’ve learned the core of these tunes through Dreamin’ Man so much that now, when I put Harvest Moon on the player, I’m thrilled.
So, yes, Dreamin’ Man: Live ‘92 is at first a strange and seemingly unnecessary addition to the Young canon. But I’m glad it exists. It has the slow Sunday morning vibe of Comes a Time, almost feeling like a sequel to that record. And, damn, what a companion piece it will be for those who already love Harvest Moon. Great songs stripped to their core by one of the all-time masters of guitar-and-voice songwriting.