Neil Young: Archives Vol. 1 (1963–1972)

Reprise (10 Blu-ray Discs)
Archives ••••• Picture •••• Sound ••••• Extras •••••
"FUCK THE AUDIENCE." So says Neil Young in one of the Easter eggs on Archives Vol. 1. This blunt point - made at his Broken Arrow Ranch during a video shoot for the Archives back in (yes) February 1997 - is critical to understanding this long-gestating passion project. Especially key is what Neil says next: "If I'm going to survive, they're going to have to eat it."

The Canadian-born, California-entrenched singer/songwriter has followed his muse down any and every rabbit hole he desires, embracing all genres and styles with the commitment of an artist willing to express his creativity in whatever form he chooses. The message: Join me or don't; it doesn't matter. I'm still going. But far from being an exercise in esoteric navel-gazing, Archives is the Holy Grail - a fine reward for the patience, understanding, and loyalty of his followers, and a truly comprehensive chronicle of the first phase of his epic career. From the evidence on Vol. 1, it's a digital love letter to Neil Young fans, one that's wholly worth the wait in ways heretofore only imagined.

First, the facts. Vol. 1 is a 10-disc boxed set available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD - listed at $349 and $249, respectively, but selling for $299 and $199 at neilyoung.com. And as Young says in "A Message from Neil," which pops up after you click on the Archives skyline button at his site, "You will see that Blu-ray is what you want for the utmost in quality, variety, and versatility . . . Don't say I didn't tell you." I'll second all of that. Blu-ray is the only way you should experience this project. On BD, audio is ultra-high-resolution 192-kHz/24-bit PCM (mostly stereo), and video is 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. And yes, 5.1 fans, there is some surround sound to be found within; I'll get to that in much detail later. The set includes a card that allows you to download all of the music tracks as MP3s. An eight-disc CD set ($99) is available, too. (In any format, nearly every disc can be bought individually from neilyoung.com.)

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