Earliest live Neil Young footage known to exist set for official release

Neil Young live 1970
(Image credit: Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Neil Young has announced the upcoming release of Young Shakespeare – a live solo album and concert film from 1971 that shares early recordings of hit songs that had yet to be released, as well as containing rare live footage.

Dating back to January 22 1971 when Young sat down to perform an intimate bare-bones concert at The Shakespeare Theater in Connecticut, Young Shakespeare arrived just two months after the release of After the Gold Rush, and sees Neil Young stripped down to the basic essentials an acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica.

Initially recorded for German TV, footage of the performance has not been made publicly available until now, following a lengthy process involving the restorations of old analog tapes.

The repurposed material will be available on March 26, with the project promising to give a rare insight into Young at the start of his prolific musical and performing career.

Highlights of the new album include live recordings of Old Man, The Needle and the Damage Done, A Man Needs a Maid and Heart of Gold which were, at the time, over a year away from being officially released on Young's Harvest record.

The live performance, which comprises some of the earliest known footage of Young performing to exist, also sees the singer-songwriter perform acoustic renditions of two After the Gold Rush songs, as well as a number of other fan favorites, including Ohio, Cowgirl in the San, Helpless and Sugar Mountain.

Speaking of Young Shakespeare, Young wrote, "it is a more calm performance, without the celebratory atmosphere of Massey Hall, captured live in 16mm.

"Young Shakespeare is a very special event," Young went on to say. "To my fans, I say this is the best ever... one of the most pure-sounding acoustic performances we have in the Archive."

Young Shakespeare is available for pre-order now and will be released on March 26. The album will be available on vinyl and CD from music retailers everywhere, while the standalone concert DVD will be available exclusively through The Greedy Hand Store at the Neil Young Archives.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.