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With Jim Sabatini

Neil Young Journeys

Neil Young Journeys

Rated: PG for language including some drug references, and brief thematic material.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: June 29, 2012 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

You can count on Jonathan Demme (working with a handful of camera operators) to make another sharp documentary featuring legendary gruff rocker (of nearly five decades) Neil Young, albeit one with sonorous impulsion. One that will stay longest with his more ardent supporters even those given less exposure on screen.
Neil Young Journeys is the third collaboration between the two (the first being the richly moving Neil Young: Heart of Gold) and was shot on the last two nights (in 2011) of the venerable artist's support of his Grammy-winning album 'Le Noise' at Toronto's Massey Hall. Some dozen songs are done to completion with insight into a consummate performer's unique craftsmanship that still has a way to mesmerize an audience.
The Canadian idol has a way of nurturing his elemental pattern with music and lyrics to surprising prolonged effect. It works with Demme's varied steely approach to new songs like "You Never Call" and "Leia" as well as old favorites like "Hey Hey, My My", "I Believe In You", "Ohio" (which still packs a punch especially with old Kent State footage) and "Down by the River" (almost rendered in a single take).
There's a warmth of expression with Young riding in his old Crown Victoria on route to his brother to their native Omemee, Ontario as Demme intersperses this early portion with home movies. Thunderous blasts from the famed hall echo the joy and pain felt along with feedback and reverberation. The well chronicled brassy musician (who's dabbled in the medium himself - 'Greendale' and 'Rust Never Sleeps', for example) still proves that the vocals and acoustics are consistent with a strong reputation established during the 1960s. Maybe dressed up a bit for today's digital age, Neil Young Journeys could be a chore to bear for the uninitiated, but a bare-bones intimacy captivates even with snoopy cameras whether in a pump organ or on a stand underneath a microphone.

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