Neil Young – Heart Of Gold (Paramount)

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There is a tangible feeling of warmth and goodwill that comes from this incredibly moving concert film. It’s a film that reiterates Young’ reputation as a consummate professional, bringing together everything that we’ve always known and loved about him, yet somehow in the same breath showing a new side to his multi faceted personality. He’ assembled his Prairie Wind band, itself comprised of players from Harvest, Comes a Time, This Notes for You and a bunch of other records, some of the weathered enigmatic characters that only Neil can assemble. There’ Ben Keith’ liquid slide guitar, Spooner Oldham’ keys and organ, Rick Rosas thumbing absent mindedly flicking at his bass, Emmylou Harris on backing vocals alongside his wife Pegi Young. And it feels like very much a family affair, with Neil and Pegi often turning to smile at each other and everyone else clearly enjoying themselves. Neil had just had treatment for a brain aneurism and there is a palpable sense of emotion at play and the band feed off it. Playing the entirety of Prairie Wind, this concert feels like Neil is opening himself up and laying himself bare. In particular this comes across during the second half where he dips into his back catalogue on the likes of Harvest Moon, Heart of Gold and perhaps most poignantly One of these Days. Filmed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Neil is simultaneously conjuring up the ghosts of Nashville’ past, actually using Hank William’ old guitar, and also his own past dedicating the film to his recently deceased father. Coupled with his own health issues Heart Of Gold conjures up a depth of emotion that only adds to the feeling of witnessing something incredibly special. Jonathon Demme, who cut his teeth on the Talking Heads movie Stop Making Sense and a seedy little thriller called Silence of the Lambs, is very much aware of this, managing to remain simultaneously unobtrusive yet capturing it all in a timeless graceful touch. And the last song is such a surprise an obscure gem from the early days.

Extra Features:
There’ a second disc in which Jonathon Demme narrates some rough footage of the rehearsal period, some interviews with some of the incredible characters that make up his band, an interview with Neil, his guitar tech going through all of his guitars, Neil warming up with the backing singers and a 1971 performance of Needle and the Damage Done on the Johnny Cash show.

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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

2 Comments

  1. Saw this dvd whilst laid up sick at home this week. Watched it with the headphones on, which made the experience all the more sumptuos and intimate. The spoken intro to the song he wrote for his “daddy” who had recently passed away had me crying into my lemon honey tea.

    Neil makes most performers half his age look ridiculous.Genius.

  2. I’ve always loved Neil Young’s music. I haven’t seen this yet, but will now that I’ve read your review. He is one of the greats, who combines intelligence, talent and soul together. I never get tired of The Thrasher.
    Laura