The mid-1980s were a problematic time for Neil Young in his relationship with record label Geffen Records. Having submitted a country album called Old Ways early in his contract in 1982, Young was disenchanted when the label didn’t go for it and insisted on more of a rock album from him. In 1984, the label sued Young for making uncommercial records (although, as the rock critic Dave Marsh has pointed out, given some of his prior work, who could tell), and the reworked album under the name Old Ways followed in 1985, after he’d been touring the material for a while with an ensemble he’d dubbed the International Harvesters. The trick is that many great songs got lost in the shuffle between the two versions of the album and the tour, and the result is that except for fans lucky enough to catch Young live during this period, most listeners don’t have any sense of this critical period in his career.
This is a situation that has been corrected — dramatically — with the newest release in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series, called A Treasure after a comment made by Young sideman/collaborator Ben Keith upon hearing the tapes of the songs included in the collection. A dozen selections from a year’s worth of touring are represented in the album, and, depending on the song, the band plays straight country, or sometimes like a version of the Harvest-era band with teeth. The reportoire is surprising too, with almost half a dozen songs that have never been released in any other form, plus one Harvest cover, and two dramatic reworkings of songs from Young’s Re*ac*tor album, along with a version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” for icing.
Listen for the surprises, from 7 to 11 a.m. and p.m. Sunday, with Todd Berryman, on WTTS OverEasy.