The first sound on Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Live At The Fillmore East is an electric guitar, snaking through the air like the current from a live wire, zapping the crowd with the formless opening riff of "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere." This is what Young had to offer at the dawn of the '70s: loud, loping songs that combined western balladry with a psychedelic smokiness that practically stained listeners' clothes. Live At The Fillmore's six-song set list contains three tracks from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere—including the epic-length "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand"—and three that would be released on later Young albums. Young has rarely written melodies as pretty as these, but he and Crazy Horse don't treat them preciously. They play raw and loose, as though raging against death. The record gets docked a notch for being so short, especially given the vault full of live material Young has to pick from, but then, the best live albums have often been concise, leaving behind quick impressions. Perhaps it's better for Young fans to think of Live At The Fillmore as the single-disc album he should've put out 35 years ago.
On the flip side, fans of the frequently Young-inspired Mark Kozelek have good reason to question his approach to his first live album, Little Drummer Boy. It's a two-CD set, with the first disc almost twice as long as the second, and though it consists of songs drawn from across his career—including Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, and his bizarre Modest Mouse and AC/DC covers albums—they're all acoustic, and tend to sound alike. (The audience often can't tell what they're hearing until Kozelek sings the first line, at which point they start clapping in recognition.) That said, Kozelek has a style suited to rapid picking and quiet crooning, and when he launches into the gently cascading "Salvador Sanchez," or the epic "Duk Koo Kim," his dreamy voice and repetition become transporting. We'll have to wait for Kozelek to record with a full band to get the classic live album he surely has in him, but Little Drummer Boy is a pleasant stop along the way.