By Maggie Peknic
As part of his archive project, Neil Young released Way Down in the Rust Bucket (Live) on February 26. This live album was recorded on November 13, 1990, at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz before the band went on their Ragged Glory tour. The band is clearly not in its hay-day of the 70s. This may be why there aren’t as many audience reactions heard in the background as other live albums. If there are any audience noises, they sound far-away and muted. These distanced calls of the audience are unique, though, as they make you feel like you are up close to the band and on stage with them.
However, this closeness to the music that is brought by the muted audience brings a juxtaposition. When listening to live albums, I look for the energy and the zeal of the audience. That is not the main concern on this album. Was this done purposefully so that the listener would feel closer to the band? I don’t know. Personally, when I listen to a live album, I’m looking for loud audience noises, interaction with the crowd, or story bits told on-stage – all of these elements are lacking in Young’s new album. The album serves better as a timestamp, a historical memorial to be studied from afar rather than an opportunity to feel part of the audience at a concert that you physically couldn’t be at.
As a big fan of 70s music, I still enjoyed the album. Whether with his groups (Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) or solo, I’ll support his music. If you’re a music history nerd, then you may appreciate this album as a relic of time. Otherwise, you’re better off sticking to his non-live albums.