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First Posted: 7/16/2014

Live 1974 (Rhino)

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Hailed as the first stadium tour of its kind, Crosby, Sills, Nash and Young’s 24-city tour across the summer of 1974 is the stuff of pure classic rock mythmaking. And this long-awaited, hotly anticipated 3 CD/1DVD box set, simply entitled CSNY 1974, has been on the minds and message boards of AOR savants since rumors of its creation were whispered about in records stores all over the land a few years back.

On one hand, at least according to Neil Young back then, the group was “more into showboating than the music,” as he would write in his 2012 book Waging Heavy Peace. And in looking at the amazing photography in the info- and image-thick book that accompanies this collection, at least they were doing it well.

But on the other side of the token, it remains the quartet’s most storied road trip in their five-decade history on and off together, in where much of the band’s lengthy set consisted just as much of the members’ respective solo material as it did the obvious old hippie chestnuts you’d expect at a CSNY show. “Love the One You’re With”. “Wooden Ships”. “Almost Cut My Hair”. “Our House”. “Teach Your Children”. “Déjà Vu”. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. They’re all here, performed in a weathered husk from this quick and painful string of dates that pulls its material from four primary locations where the shows were recorded, those being the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York; the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland; Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois; and Wembley Stadium in London.

But what makes this collection so great is the amazing Neil Young solo concert that exists within its track list. Sure, the nebbish collector types who own every available audience recording from this tour might be snicker at the absence of such deep favorites like “Ambulance Blues” from Young’s just-released solo masterpiece On the Beach from the Roosevelt Racetrack show in Westbury on Long Island or the amazing early bird version of the beloved lost Neil nugget “Human Highway” (which was also said to be the title of a CSNY studio LP that never happened at the time) he broke out in Vancouver.

However, any disappointments about track list oversights will be quelled once they sink their teeth into Young’s stuff from the three sets presented on this collection. Most notably the five never-before-released compositions in “Traces,” “Goodbye Dick,” “Love Art Blues,” “Hawaiian Sunrise” and “Pushed It Over the End”. You also have such fan faves as “Helpless”, “On the Beach”, “Revolution Blues”, “Old Man”, a banjo-laden take on “Mellow My Mind” from his then-next album Tonight’s the Night, “Long May You Run” from his record with partner Stephen Stills of the same name and so forth. In all, there’s a little over an hour’s worth of pure Neil Young on CSNY 1974, and boy does this stuff cook.

As for the other material featured on here, which includes material from David Crosby and Graham Nash’s pair of upcoming duo albums, 1975’s Wind on the Water and 1976’s Whistling Down the Wire, as well as “My Angel” from Stills’ eponymous 1975 LP, its necessity depends on how much you cherish CSN’s music without the Y. If all your chips are cashed in on everything which came out of their camp back in the 70s, this beautifully compiled compendium is a must-own.

But if you are just looking to CSNY 1974 strictly for the Neil Young cuts (and who could blame you unless you are a total completest), your best bet would be to jump on iTunes, cherry pick the 62 minutes worth of his stuff and call it a day. -Ron Hart