That Neil Young is some odd bird, huh? He’s spent much of the last five years getting fans excited about his Archives project, releasing the occasional vintage live album as a teaser for the massive (and suitably spectacular) box set he put out earlier this year. Now we’re all primed for the next phase of Archives: the post-Harvest ’70s era, when Young got crankier and recorded some of his best songs, many of which have never been officially released. So what does Young do? He releases another vintage live album… from 1992. And it isn’t even the full ’92 Neil Young concert experience either. Dreamin’ Man collects assorted acoustic performances of all the songs from Harvest Moon—and only Harvest Moon.
Frankly, while Harvest Moon is a good record, it’s hardly Tonight’s The Night. That said, it would be unfair to denigrate Dreamin’ Man just because it isn’t the long-awaited CD issue of Time Fades Away. On its own merits, this is an enjoyable record, featuring some of Young’s best ’90s songs: the lilting hit “Harvest Moon,” the rousing “Unknown Legend,” the beguiling “Old Man” rewrite “You And Me,” and the achingly lovely piano ballad “Such A Woman,” among others. The absence of a band—and the addition of an audience—casts the Harvest Moon material in a different light, revealing the compositional strength of the best material and the slightness of the worst. Harvest Moon drew a lot of notice (and sales) back in ’92 because it represented a conscious return to the homey sound of Young’s most popular album, Harvest, and in a way, that sound pulled attention from the songs. Dreamin’ Man is something of a correction, albeit one that will likely matter only to Young fans and Neil Young himself. And even those fans might wish that Young had released Homegrown or Chrome Dreams instead.