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DVD Review: Neil Young: Archives Volume 1: 1963-72

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At some point during the last twenty years, as Neil Young’s Archives set was pushed back another nine months on the official Warner Brother release schedule for the umpteenth time in a row, I became convinced that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. Not the archive of unreleased songs itself, but the plans to release it.

The songs were surely there; many of the rare tracks that have surfaced on bootlegs rate among his finest work. And there are definitely a lot of them; the 2000 unreleased-song compilation Archives Be Damned, culled by tape-trading fans from a multitude of unofficial sources, fills up five audio CDs, and that’s just the stuff the general public was able to get its grubby hands on. Ever since the late seventies, Young has been talking about the project, occasionally revealing song lists on his website and then abruptly removing them. But after more than a decade of this talk, I was positive he’d never allow the whole banana to be unpeeled in his own lifetime, possibly preferring to leave it for his descendents to deal with. It was easy to imagine him calling his manager every so often to say, “I’m not dead yet, push it out to next October.”