Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 the third installment from Neil Young's Archives -- although through some weird filing system this is Vol. 00, possibly because this dates before either of the previously released volumes in Archives Performance Series -- culls highlights from Neil Young's two shows at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, MI on November 9 and 10, 1968. Like its two predecessors in the Archives series, the concerts captured on Sugar Mountain are legendary among Neil Young collectors, in this case because of the gentle, tentative version of the title track that showed up on Decade -- prior to this, the only official release from the concert. At first glance, Sugar Mountain might seem similar to Live at Massey Hall 1971, as they're both solo acoustic sets, but the tenor of the two shows is quite different. Massey Hall captured Neil in full flight, just before the release of Harvest, whereas the concerts on Sugar Mountain were just a month or two shy of the release of his first solo album. He had hits with Buffalo Springfield -- much of the set list leans heavily on Springfield songs, such as "Mr. Soul," "Expecting to Fly," "Birds," "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," and "Broken Arrow" -- but he had yet to prove himself as a solo artist, so the endearing tentative quality of his performances shouldn't come as a surprise, and yet it does: Young's reputation as a steely renegade often suggests that he never second-guesses his moves. Neil doesn't second-guess here but he is fragile and human, telling stories (sometimes at considerable length) before sliding into these delicate songs, wryly lamenting that he should have some happy songs to sing before testing out the melody for "Winterlong," stopping short because the song isn't quite written yet. It's a marvelously intimate performance, unguarded and open-hearted, unique in its delicate touch: it's Neil Young before the myth crystallized, and listening to it anew, it's easy to fall in love with him all over again.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1