Neil Young

Journey Through the Past

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Most soundtrack albums don't really contain the soundtracks to movies as they sound and as they are edited for the screen -- a song heard in a snippet on a car radio in the film, for example, will be presented in its entirety and with good sound on the album. But the soundtrack to Neil Young's fantasy/documentary Journey Through the Past, released as a double-LP six months before the movie was seen by the public, does contain an audio record of what's on screen. Songs are cut off or fade out, to be replaced by fragments of something else, and the sound is not improved. When Young uses footage from television appearances by Buffalo Springfield, you hear them in tinny mono sound, and in what sounds like canned versions of the original recordings with some guitar playing and vocals done live. And when Young intercuts a band rehearsal of his song "Alabama" with remarks by David Crosby or a speech by Richard Nixon onscreen, that's what you hear on the record. So, Journey Through the Past doesn't work as well apart from the film as most soundtracks do. But the main problem with it is the same one that the film suffers: It doesn't make much sense. Journey Through the Past is a mixture of TV footage of the Springfield, live footage of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, rehearsal footage of Young and his backup band the Stray Gators working on Harvest, news footage, and some special material Young shot. It doesn't coalesce into a coherent movie or a coherent record, and when the LPs were released, billed as a new album by the most popular recording artist of 1972, critics were appalled and record buyers nonplussed. If some of this material were used as part of a boxed set, it would have historical value and be interesting to fans, but in this context it was baffling.

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