Neil Young Archives Blu-ray: Rip off?

Decades in the making, Neil Young's much anticipated "Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972" box set is here. Was it worth the wait?

The box is jam-packed with stuff, but is a little short on unreleased musical content.

It's pricey. The "Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972" Blu ray box goes for $349; the DVD is $250; and the CD set a mere $100. The Blu-ray box contains a sprawling 11-disc collection. Young's been working on this set for what feels like decades; was it worth the wait?

There's a beautifully bound, embossed-"leather," covered book with tons of cool pictures. Hard-core fans will love it, everyone else will look through it once and be done with it.

There's only one unreleased live disc, "Live at the Riverboat 1969." The Blu ray box also includes "Live at Canterbury House" (not a Blu-ray, just a DVD and CD), "Live at the Fillmore East 1970," and "Live at Massey Hall 1971," which have been individually released over the past couple of years. I already bought them, as I'm sure many fans have. What a rip off to make us buy them again.

Most discs have music running times of under 60 minutes, so why oh why didn't Neil fill up more of the discs' capacity, or did he just need to justify an exorbitant MSRP? $350 for 11 discs? Strange, Hollywood movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make retail for under 20 bucks a pop, so why does Neil charge $31 for a disc for music he made nearly 40 years ago? Rip off.

The Blu-ray features ultrahigh resolution 24-bit /192 kHz stereo sound, which you can play over some newer AV receivers, but I'm not so sure that any high-end electronics can access the superduper-sounding PCM tracks. Surround sound? Only one disc has surround. Blu-ray sound quality is about the same as the previously released 24 bit/96 kHz sound on the DVDs that came out years ago. Don't buy the Blu-ray box for the sound; the DVDs are fine.

I had a rough time navigating the Blu-rays' stupidly designed menus and accessing some of the "bonus" material and "hidden" tracks. Hey, I paid my money, why do I have to go round and round to find the music I paid for?

As for video "content," I don't know about you, but watching an LP playing on a turntable or reel-to-reel tapes spinning gets old really fast. Reading pages of text off my TV is also less than entertaining. The photo galleries are nice.

Young's film "Journey through the Past" is included, but the Blu-ray's video quality is wasted. You might as well be watching a blurry VHS tape. The film's audio quality varies between awful and decent. Songs are interrupted by dialogue and edits, and there's no shortage of pointless imagery. There's a shot that goes on for five minutes of Young and a woman eating berries, smoking a joint, and drinking from a large jug, while sitting on the bumper of an old car. Can you say "self indulgent?"

Summing up, I can't recommend "Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972" on Blu-ray. If you really love Young, get the CD box. Then again, if Young really cared about his fans he'd ditch the filler and put out a killer two-disc set of just the unreleased stuff.

Yes, of course, the Blu-ray, DVD, and CD sets are heavily discounted. Amazon has the Blu-ray for $279. It's still a rip off.

 

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