In the winter of 1970, Neil Young played a series of solo shows at a small club in Washington, DC. It was a place called The Cellar Door, a room that closed its doors in 1981. The 200 person club played host to many artists that we would now consider legendary, names like Jackson Browne, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and Neil Young. Part of a series of archival releases, Live at the Cellar Door is a collection of songs recorded by Neil Young over a three night span in DC. It's will certainly pique the interest of the most passionate Neil Young fans, but also commands a listen because of its uniquely undecorated presentation and intimacy.
Nowadays live recordings are easy to dismiss, and for good reason. Too often live concert recordings are premeditated and lacking in the spontaneity that ultimately draws us to see/hear live music. With Live at the Cellar Door there's a reminder of what that special connection is between artist and audience. The couple hundred people in attendance here are entirely captured and respectful of the performance, and it makes the recording all that more extraordinary. Early performances of classics like "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "After The Gold Rush" flourish in such an intimate environment.
Throughout the set Neil hops from guitar to piano, and for the first time ever sits down at the keys to perform "Cinnamon Girl". It's a must-hear moment and easily the highlight of the collection, followed by his stripped down version of "Down By the River". It's fascinating to think that the forethought to record these shows was there. And it's even more impressive that the quality of the recording is as pristine as it is.