Archives Vol. 1 (4.5*)

Archives Vol.jpgAnd, yes, I do realise that it’s not, strictly speaking, an album....

Maybe it's no wonder that it's taken years for the format of the box set to evolve beyond a couple of disks in a package about the same size as the disks themselves or a book with the disks mounted inside the covers.

I've bought plenty of box sets in my time, and the shelves in Hughesy's office and the vinyl collection in the living room are there to prove it. The CD shelves, however, are never going to be able to accommodate the Neil Young Archives. Quite simply, the box is too big.

Looking at the box itself is probably the appropriate point to start looking at the Archives, a project that doesn't fall into line with established practices when it comes to CD or DVD packaging. Neither, by the way, do the contents, but we'll get to that little kettle of fish a bit later.  Assuming you own a couple of other collections, this won't slot in nicely beside them - it's taller, for a start - so you're probably looking at creating its own little niche for it. Right from the start you're looking at something that doesn't sit comfortably beside established practices.

At a guess, the wrap around graphics on the outside would mean that eventually the four boxes could be arranged to present a single panel, but when you're talking Neil Young, such expectations have a history of failing to materialise.

Opening the box is best done with some care since there's a handy listing of the contents on the plastic wrap which you'd more than likely want to keep intact for reference purposes. I didn't quite manage to...

Once you've lifted the lid, the contents are, more or less revealed; the book, a big chunky volume that brings its own atmosphere with it; the poster, depicting a filing cabinet drawer with tabs for the various items on the disks; the box that holds the disks themselves; and the 'bonus goodies' box that contains the download card, a note pad from the Whisky A Go Go and the extra Sugar Mountain which represents the first repeat of a previously-released disk.

When it comes to the contents, the book's a natural starting point. Bound in an imitation leather cover with a carved tree around the spine and a rising sun in brown, orange and gold tones, the book's every bit the family album, running from Young's parents' wedding through his childhood years (featuring the sort of chubby kid photos many of us would prefer to consign to oblivion) into high school and from there to his years with The Squires. Photos, newspaper cuttings, handwritten lyrics, letters, it's all there.

It even smells like it's been stowed away at the bottom of a cupboard somewhere.

If you're not particularly interested in those early years, the interesting bit cuts in around page 40 with the formation of Buffalo Springfield which was, for most long-term fans, the first point where Young's presence was likely to register.

The next thirty-odd pages take you through that era, and then the following hundred-odd pages bring the story up to the release of Harvest in 1972, a rich visual record of the years that launched Neil into prominence. There's CSNY content in there, but the majority of the material focuses on Neil Young solo and his collaboration with Crazy Horse.


© Ian Hughes 2012