For Neil Young fans awaiting the release of Young's approaching-mythic-status Archives, a preemptive shot across the bow of expectation now comes with Live at the Fillmore East, recorded March 6 and 7, 1970, at the legendary concert ballroom. Actually, though, with just six songs spread across a single 43-minute CD, LATFE is less a "shot" and more a teaser; most of us have an idea of the sheer volume of live and unreleased material stashed away in Young's vaults.
Still, this is billed as one installment in the "NYAPS" -- the Neil Young Archives Performance Series. And we long-suffering Young fans tend to take whatever crumbs he proffers, even when we already have the material; Young and Crazy Horse (which at the time included pianist Jack Nitzsche) did two sets apiece on both March 6 and 7, and bootlegs of all four performances are in circulation.
But not in this near-pristine quality. Young digitally restored the mixing-desk recordings (originally produced by Doors mainstay Paul Rothchild), and, in a word, they sizzle. Performance-wise, too: The twangy title track from 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere LP attains a newfound soulful swing, while both the 13-minute "Down By The River" and the 15-minute "Cowgirl In The Sand" scale peak after peak of guitar-jam nirvana -- the latter, in particular, finds Young soloing with a Coltrane-like intensity as viscerally cosmic as the description implies.
Purchases of the "deluxe edition" get an additional DVD featuring a cache of archival goodies -- lyrics, photo gallery, press clippings, musician bios. The entire audio program is included as well, although in lieu of an actual film of the concert a montage of black-and-white stills from the Fillmore residency plays onscreen. Nice, but probably only for hardcore Young devotees. Show of hands, please.