Neil Young’s Live At The Cellar Door, recorded in 1970 and released officially now for the first time is a beautiful performance featuring songs from an interesting variety of origins. The Cellar Door was a tiny club in Washington D.C. that hosted the likes of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Tom Waits and Miles Davis. It was known for its strict “no talking” rule. All focus was on the artists.
After The Gold Rush holds a special significance for me, as it is a song that I play and sing with my dad. I love the incredible imagery in this song and this version of it is excellent: full of feeling.
The album features three Buffalo Springfield songs, one from each of their studio albums. The best of these in this performance is Expecting To Fly, with its morphing time signature and Young’s vocals at their most delicate. I love how the song has a gentle beginning but then a crash boom ending.
There is also a Byrds song, See The Sky About To Rain, which features an interesting music box-y piano solo.
Bad Fog Of Loneliness, a rare song never featured on a studio album, is a lovely gem: the story of a relationship told in just two minutes.
Cinnamon Girl is a delightful oddity. With Young using the piano on this song for “the first time,” as he notes at the end of it, the song sounds more sincere here than on the rockier 1969 studio recording.
Young’s patter before the finale song, Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, is a great treat. Young is funny and playful (“You’d laugh too, you know, if this is what you did for a living”). It left me wishing there were more of it on the album, and this is the album’s only drawback.
This album is not only a treat for Young’s die-hard fans, but a live album that stands alone on its own merits. It is a thoroughly engaging, poetic, energetic piece of work.