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LISTEN IN: Neil Young releases ‘A Treasure’ of live music

Published 8:00pm Saturday, June 18, 2011

Neil Young’s new album lives up to its name, even though it’s a shift from rock ‘n’ roll.

“A Treasure” isn’t exactly new, as it is a collection of live performances recorded in the mid-1980s with country band The International Harvesters.

“A Treasure” is Young’s ninth volume of his archives series of live performances. The latest edition reveals a different side of Young than the first volume, “Live at the Fillmore East.” His Fillmore performance was guitar-rock driven by Young’s signature solos, especially on a 16-minute live performance of “Cowgirl In The Sand.”

On “A Treasure,” Young serves up brief tastes of signature guitar tone, but it’s only a cog in the album’s web of sound.

Young substitutes the rock ‘n’ roll for country with backing band The International Harvesters, featuring fiddles, steel guitar and banjos. Parts of the album are more like “A Prairie Home Companion” than “Southern Man.”

But Young, like many other great performers, is a musical chameleon. His voice and style transfers seamlessly to the old prairie style.

The album still features songs from Young’s more rock-based days, as he performs “Are You Ready for the County?” — but with more sway and twang.

“Motor City” is an upbeat ode to Detroit. At his best, Young can effortlessly convey emotions. “It Might Have Been” is melancholy ballad looking back at past dreams and plans.

The 1980s weren’t kind to many rock stars with roots in the 1960s and 1970s. But, “A Treasure” proves Young remained vibrant in the 1980s, even when family responsibilities took him away from a full schedule.

Young also shifted to county before artists like Bob Dylan shifted to a more roots-based sound in the 1990s and 2000s.

While the album may not be Young’s brightest gem, it’s another worthy jewel in Young’s treasure trove.

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