It's more than a little relevant that, as Bob Dylan has hit his 70th birthday and a parade of events and celebrations progress to mark the fact, Neil Young is coming more and more under renewed critical acclaim and historical review. Considering the encompassing purview of the man's work and its multi-generational admirers, this documentary is actually long past due and highly welcome. The gent has, after all, issued 33 albums and was a key figure in two seminal groups: Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Thus, the Sexy Intellectual imprint has brought out this, to steal the title of one of Neil's soundtrack efforts, journey through the past.
The vista of this musical travelogue is vast, starting from Young's first starry-eyed condition, smitten with the emergent mid-50s rock and roll explosion in Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and pronouncedly in Roy Orbison, thence on to a constellation of sonic interests, even including the Sex Pistols and Devo. For two hours, the course of the Canadian musician's constant net of influences and absorptions is traced by a number of critics, mostly American, including Richie Unterberger, amusingly looking nothing so much as a rambling stumblebum from a Daniel Clowes comic book. Through a cornucopia of great old clips and running narrative, as well as reminiscences by some of the musicians of the old surf instrumental groups(the Squires, the Fireballs, etc.), the skein of Young's developing aesthetic becomes clear. This menu also early established itself in the personages of the aforementioned Dylan and Ian & Sylvia, the three who would most noticeably form the rootsprings of Neil's aesthetic mindset.
The criticisms rendered here could be a tad more stringent—more in line with the dazzling commentary in Chrome Dreams' Bob Dylan vid (here), f'rinstance—but they're not unfair in highly pro-Young biases, especially regarding the strange Trans period, as both Sexy Intellectual and the crits commenting are rounded in their tastes and abundant in their enthusiasms. I personally would've liked to have seen the Unplugged and Heart of Gold periods more extensively featured, especially the latter, as it formed an epiphany in Young's late years, reconfirming his powers, but, that said, Neil's work has been so prolific and sprawling that no one film could possible cover it all. Here We Are in the Years in its two-hour format provides a solid foundation from the 60s up to the advent of the 90s and somewhat into it, so there's plenty of room left for the last segment of the journey to be handled just as thoroughly in another documentary.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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