Here We Are In The Years: Neil Young's Music Box (2011)

DVD Cover (Sexy Intellectual)
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Despite remaining a hugely original singer, songwriter, performer and, let's face it, human being, across a career spanning almost fifty years, Neil Young has never been immune to the influence of others. This will be of no surprise to anyone with even a hint of interest in the man and his music, but only those who have studied their subject in depth will be aware of the enormous range of artists and genres Neil has both been affected by and drawn inspiration from, much of which, if one knows where to look, is apparent in Young's incredible catalogue. --Amazon
Review by Bill Wolford
Added: June 16, 2011
I love music. I live for music. I had my first stereo and record collection at four years old. Being almost 44 years old, that puts me smack in the middle of the last ringing tones of the Beatles and the first howling scream of the Sex Pistols. I am one lucky guy to have been born when I was. This is why I love music documentaries. It allows me to study the musicians I love close up, and at slow speed. I can try to feel how they did and learn from what they have done, and just generally let knowledge seep into my pores. That's what this Neil Young Documentary is all about, but there are a couple drawbacks.

Neil Young's Music Box is a VERY in depth documentary, running two hours (didn't feel like it), taking us from his childhood to the present day in a very concise manner. There is a narrator for the general storyline and five or six "talking heads" that are either friends of Neil or are in the music business. All are very helpful in moving the narrative along at a good clip.

Influences in Neil's musical life are what make up the bulk of this documentary, and while I wouldn't have thought to string the story of his life around such things, it ends up making a lot of sense by the conclusion of the film. We find out about the earliest of his heroes (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison) and how they helped him emerge from an instrumental band and "Guitar Nerd" into the folk scene and eventually into Buffalo Springfield. The Beatles, and in particular George Harrison gave him the courage to finally start singing and also Harrison and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones became his new guitar heroes.

He nurtured his folk influences (Canada's Ian and Sylvia, also Bob Dylan), and when Dylan went electric, he followed suit with his first solo album, Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills Nash & Young helping to usher in the folk rock movement. Neil was always looking for new styles and new ways to express himself. Influenced this time by country artist Don Gibson as well as what he'd absorbed so far (He's called himself a "sponge"), he released his most popular record, Harvest which grew into the country rock movement.

In the late seventies and early eighties Neil found himself impressed with punk and New Wave (Devo were cast in one of the movies Neil Directed). His album "Rust Never Sleeps" was a comeback of sorts, and a songs lyrics references Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols. Also, the lyric "Its Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away" was used in Kurt Cobain's suicide note some years later, which still haunts Neil. So much so, that at the time, he released a darkly beautiful album, Sleeps with Angels, which was dedicated to Kurt.

Neil's other influences included New Wave (Kraftwerk) and Grunge (Pearl Jam). The latter of which he toured and put out an album with. We see near the end of the film that Neil has come full circle back to releasing folk, country rock and Acoustic albums once again. Always reaching out in new directions to filter it though his great songwriting and musicianship.

This documentary is a must have if you are interested in Neil Young at any level. The amount of information you come away with after the two hour running time is staggering. The only reason I can't give this a perfect rating is because we see so little of Neil Young himself. One twenty-second clip of him speaking, and six or eight 15-second clips of him performing is just not enough. Some of the narrative could have been trimmed to allow for performances, or they could have put video clips as extras. And speaking of extras, we do have a couple. A Brief History of The Squires talks about Neil's first band. Contributors biographies tells you about the people who were speaking in the film, and last is Beyond DVD which is just an ad for chromedreams.co.uk DVD Video CD and Books.

Grab this DVD when it comes out at the end of June. You'll learn a lot about what makes Neil Young tick.
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