Neil Young Archives, Vol. I; or, Harrowing Decisions about Audio Fidelity

Hey folks, there’s been a lot of ink spilled about this Neil Young Archves, Vol. I business.  As the biggest NY fan I know, I feel compelled to weigh in but also solicit your advice and thoughts on the matter.

I really want to get this box set but am not planning on doing so (right now, anyway) for a couple of reasons: firstly, I own most of these songs in their studio versions and can’t bring myself to spend a huge chunk of change for alternate versions and tracks I’ve never heard, though I am horribly curious to hear them and to see Young’s weirdo movie Journey Through the Past in its entirety; secondly and most importantly, I am overwhelmed by the options for purchasing it.  I, like all of you, don’t own a Blu-Ray player and was actually seriously considering buying a decent CD player for once in my life.  In short, this whole Archives project makes me all the more angst-ridden about how to charter my audio future.  Will Blu-Ray become the next Laserdisk?  Why didn’t Neil release this set on vinyl?  Are CDs doomed to irrelevance despite my owning hundreds of them?  At what height of fidelity are the differences negligible?  Digital music is totally and sadly divorced from the sacred ritual of listening to music but I can’t give up my iPod.

What do I do, fair reader?  I am lost.

Lost, that is, until Vol. II comes out.  Then I’ll be first in line to buy it in whatever format is en vogue.  It will cover something like 1973 to 1979, which, as I’ve said before, is a period of unparalleled rock innovation.  Witness: “Time Fades Away”, “On the Beach”, “Tonight’s the Night”, “Zuma”, “American Stars ‘N Bars”, “Comes a Time”, and “Rust Never Sleeps.”  Good lord…that’s unbelievable.

Anyway, I need some feedback here.  What audio format do you prefer? What do you all think about any or all of the following: Neil Young, CDs, vinyl, MP3s, Blu-Ray, pepperoni and onion pizza?


Neil Young – “Burned” from Decade (1977)

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Rock

9 responses to “Neil Young Archives, Vol. I; or, Harrowing Decisions about Audio Fidelity

  1. Neil Cake

    I was thinking of getting it on CD – £80 here – but when I realised there would only be about 2 discs-worth of material I don’t have, £80 seemed a bit expensive.

    I’m the biggest Neil Young fan I know, too, and I was fully prepared to spend £80 – I actually have £80 sitting around waiting for me to decide what to spend it on – but I just can’t bring myself to by the Archives set. I’m not really bothered about the films btw, I just want the music.

  2. Blake

    Yeah, I feel your pain.

    It sure is easy to download music and just put it on my ipod. I can walk around with thousands of songs right in my pocket. However, with so much music right there, right now, it’s hard to decide what to listen to. Quite often I just end up putting the thing on shuffle.

    I’m trying to make more of an effort to just listen to albums straight through. I’ve stocked my car with CDs and have ditched my ipod while in the car.

    I like CDs. I like having something I can hold onto and look at.

    I’ll keep buying CDs. I like going to the CD store. I like looking through everything. It’s way more fun that downloading everything.

    I like pineapple pizza.

  3. Here’s an interesting article on the Archives box:,29005/

    I hadn’t realized that the Archives box cut out certain songs from albums, which seems, if not heretical, a little dumb. I mean, is it a cynical ploy to get folks to repurchase the original albums? Who the hell is this box set aimed at? Folks who already own this shit a few times over?

    What’s wrong with the CD of On The Beach I already own? Could a new format really make it sound that much better?

    Blu-ray is not going to catch on as an audio format. Music formats have been going portable since the days of the 8-track. The Blu-ray disc just isn’t as portable as an mp3 file.

    As for Blu-ray video, I think it is the new laserdisc–a good technology with niche appeal. DVD made such a huge splash because it blew away the previous popular format (video) and appeared at a time when TV/video technology was making big leaps–surround sound, flat-screen, etc. And DVDs got real cheap, real quick, which brought about this age where the movie is not an event, not something you go out to, but something to cozy up with, like a book.

    Unless Blu-ray can signal a new epoch in art consumption, it’s not going to catch on.

    Because, really, who cares about audio or visual quality that much? I’m all for high-quality mp3s, but it’s not like I listen to music because it sounds good, or watch movies because they look good. Art is about more important things than appearance.

    Nobody tells Van Gogh to fuck off because his paintings are technically iffy. Cracks in the paint don’t rob the art of its power. In fact, I’d argue that cracks in the paint give the art a certain amount of vulnerability, humanity.

    Then again, in the words of my brother, “You dig mistakes.”

    Many of my favorite records sound like shit whether they’re on my nice stereo, my ipod, in the car, or on the clock radio next to my bed. Greater Audio Fidelity is not going to make an RCA-Dog-Listening-To-His-Master’s-Voice-From-The-Victrola out of Husker Du or Guided By Voices or, hell, Tonight’s The Night, a pretty rough-sounding record itself. Then again, “Audio Fidelity” means loyalty to the original sound. And a good stereo does make music sound better.

    I’m with Blake. I like CDs. I feel more connection to the physical object of the album than to a list of song names scrolled through on the ipod.

    It’s the same thing with books. I read lotsa stuff online, but rarely does it have the same emotional effect as a book. Because I can’t hold it. That’s the great problem for art in the digital age, I think. How to make it seem like this art object (book, picture, song, whatever) actually exists in the real physical world?

    But I haven’t bought a CD in nearly a year, because Amazon mp3s are so much cheaper.

    Red onion plus good sausage. Alternately, bacon and some kind of wilted greens. I used to love green peppers, but the honeymoon seems to be over. They don’t taste like much and they get slimy.

  4. Jordy

    Glenn: to clarify, the Archives is all stuff that hasn’t been released before (not counting the Fillmore, Massey Hall, and Sugar Mountain discs which were released over the last couple of years in a cynical attempt to maximize profits). So I am curious to hear that stuff, as mentioned.

    Another reason I can’t embrace Blu-Ray is because it is primarily a video format and requires a high-end TV to properly view. I can’t be expected to buy all that shit. Like Neil Cake, I’m in it for the music, not some A/V slideshow or visual effects. I like to keep my audio experiences separate from my video ones. It somehow seems sinful to, say, play back the glories of an album like Sgt. Pepper on the same receiver/speakers on which I’m also playing garish television commercials or overloud sound FX from some action flick. They’re incongruous.

    I’m with Blake too on the CDs. I’ll stand by them and so will, I think, bands and record labels for the foreseeable future. Blu-Ray may certainly overtake DVD but CDs are deeply entrenched for their ability to be both tactile (played lovingly in your Marantz CD player or car stereo) and ultimately portable (as ripped onto an iPod). If anything, I will tend towards vinyl as it is even more physical, i.e. not digital. A lot of labels deftly sell their wax with an MP3 download code that gives you the best of both worlds.

    The debate continues and I don’t think I’m any more convinced that I should buy the Archives. Sorry, Neil.

  5. Jeff Wheeler

    Other kinds of cheese (preferably something out of left-field and not generally connected with Italy: cheddar, emmenthaller, etc.) and onions and nothing else.

    I download music and then I buy vinyl LP record-albums, I burn CDs from my computer to play them in a car or in the kitchen or when I go holme for Xmas, and I write on them with dumn sharpies in awful handwriting that I often can’t decipher later.

    I don’t have any blue ray stuff.

  6. Young Dan

    I had a similar dilemma. I went with the DVD package, which is the middle priced option. It is really worth it. In addition to the audio tracks there are lots of really cool extras. For instance, a video clip of Neil & Stills playing Mr. Soul at Woodstock!! CSNY on some ABC music show hosted by David Steinberg ripping through Down By the River. Neil on Johnny Cash singing Needle. I have barely begun exploring all this music, video, and info. In addition, it comes with a card to download MP3s of all of the audio tracks. So you can video and audio.

    Keep on rockin’…..

    PS The sound quality is amazing, even on my crappy TV set.

  7. harrison

    note to Jordy in post #4: i am sure you know this by now but there are a HUGE number of songs that have been previously available on this set.

  8. harrison

    everyone is tired of new formats. CDs are very disposable and clunky in the age in which we live. the best format for listening to music is vinyl, particularly LPs. not because of the sound which is good. it’s because of the cool way a nice gatefold feels, their limited playing length, the increased “activity” they cause the listener, and many other resons. vinyl is the only growing section in the music business. it’s because people want to collect stuff, and vinyl is the only way to “collect” music anymore and feel like you really have something. especially younger people raised on free downloads.

  9. Bruno

    I just bought the Blu-ray box.
    These enhanced track are just amazing. You can hear details, stereo effects, dynamic, you never heard before.
    And with the box you get a plastic card with a code to get all tracks in mp3 format on Neil’s site for free.
    So what are you waiting for? Get a PS3 and, like me, just wait for Vol. 2…

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