Anyone who has followed Neil Young’s 40-plus year career knows this artist can rock in blistering, noisy fashion. On everything from “Like a Hurricane” to “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Young plays a ferocious guitar. But the musical side of Young that really resonates with me is the warm acoustic one– just his quivering voice and guitar along with the occasional piano and harmonica. When he performs in this intimate setting, a purity in the music and the words emerges that is equal to, or even greater than, the power of the electric guitar charged rock he is equally and deservedly renowned for.
This power is quite evident on Dreamin Man Live ’92, the latest archival recording released, taken from his tour in support of the Harvest Moon album– the sequel to his hit record Harvest (1972).
Dreamin’ Man features the ten songs from Harvest Moon performed unplugged, and they’re all soulful and poignant. “Such a Woman,” for example, is utterly romantic and tender with Young on piano and his harmonica playing providing counterpoint. Equally touching is the song “Harvest Moon.” With its waltz-like rhythm, it’s a tribute to universal love. It retains the powerful imagery of a couple—young or old—somewhere slow dancing in a country field under a bright moonlit sky.
Other moments on Dreamin’ Man touch on the personal, like “Old King,” an ode to Young’s dog that passed away. There’s also the poetic and evocative “Unknown Legend,” about a former waitress with kids, (“Somewhere on a desert highway she rides a Harley-Davidson/Her long blonde hair flyin’ in the wind”), and the country-folk tune “One of These Days,” about old friendships.
Only the last two songs on the live record deviate from the previous introspective ones. “Natural Beauty,” the longest song on Dreamin’ Man at over 11 minutes, could be interpreted as a commentary on the environment. And the urgent and haunting “War of Man” follows in the same vein with its lyrics touching on humanity’s harmful impact towards the earth. (Could these songs have been a precursor to Young’s 2003 story-album, Greendale?)
Like any other great Neil Young acoustic-minded effort, Dreamin’ Man is moving in both the artist’s performance and the sheer honesty of the music. Young has the affect of making a listener emotionally involved– he’s just that genuine and heartfelt.