Neil Young makes poignant return to hometown, plays two nights at Massey Hall in new Jonathan Demme film

Jonathan Demme’s new documentary focusing on Neil Young is set to debut at theaters beginning June 29.

Demme followed Young as the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s tour made a stop in his Canadian hometown of Omemee, Ontario — where Young was set to play a pair of dates at the legendary Massey Hall, site of a classic 1971 show that was issued as an album a few years ago. At one point, as Young drives a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria past a construction site, he poignantly says: “It’s all gone … it’s still in my head.” Cameras also captured Young reminiscing with old friends and then two sets that included new songs from the album Le Noise, produced by Daniel Lanois, along with classics like “Ohio” and “I Believe in You.”

Fans will remember that an interview in advance of the premiere of “Journeys” last month at the 2012 Slamdance Festival in Park City, Utah, ended up making big news, when Young revealed that he has been recording with Crazy Horse again. Upon hearing the news, the crowd erupted in applause.

Crazy Horse has appeared on all or part of some 20 Neil Young projects, notably 1970′s After the Gold Rush, 1975′s Tonight’s the Night and 1979′s Rust Never Sleeps, as well as the minor pop hit “Cinnamon Girl.” Their last new collaboration, however, was Greendale in 2003.

“Journeys,” set at the end of Young’s 2011 solo concert series, is the third such Demme film since 2006, following “Heart of Gold” and 2009′s “Neil Young Trunk Show.” Young’s catalog boasts so much depth, however, that none of the songs from those documentaries overlaps with the selected music in “Journeys.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Neil Young, including a report by Glen Boyd — author of the forthcoming book ‘Neil Young FAQ’ from Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. Click through the headlines for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: NILS LOFGREN OF CRAZY HORSE: Working on seminal recordings like After the Gold Rush and Tonight’s the Night, Lofgren told us, “was obviously a gift from musical heaven. I would sneak backstage all the time to ask advice from my musical heroes. Neil’s first Crazy Horse tour came through town to the Cellar Door, and I go back to a little dressing room. He was kind enough to hand me a guitar and let me sing. The next thing I knew, I spent the weekend hanging out with him. He said: ‘Look me up when you get to L.A.,’ and I did. So at 18 years of age, when he asked me to do After the Gold Rush, as intimidating as it was, I recognized it as a very blessed opportunity – and fortunately, it was with somebody that I knew a bit. As overwhelming as it might have been, I had a comfort level. That made it possible for me to hang in there and get the job done. It was a great adventure.

NEIL YOUNG – LE NOISE (2010): Even after a damaging season of loss, Neil Young remains, as always, restless and relentless — imbuing the modernistic, reverb-soaked Le Noise with a kind of anti-melancholy. He hasn’t stopped searching for light in the darkness and, even now, somehow never sounds quite the same from album to album. This time, Young partners with producer Daniel Lanois, recording alone with his guitar in an atmosphere that sounds nothing like the typical unplugged session. There’s no Stills, no Crosby or Nash and no Crazy Horse. Instead, this textured, live-sounding project finds a place in between Young’s acoustic work and his more muscular full-band rock music.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: NEIL YOUNG AND THE INTERNATIONAL HARVESTERS – AUSTIN CITY LIMITS (1984): Of all of Neil Young’s 1980s genre experiments, his country period is perhaps the most misunderstood of them all.For one thing, Neil had a hell of a band back then in the International Harvesters. This band of Nashville cats may not have blown down arena doors with the same ferocity as Crazy Horse or, for that matter, Pearl Jam. But as this 1984 ACL concert proves, they could more than hold their own with Neil Young on an extended version of “Down By The River.” In fact, a very young at the time Anthony Crawford’s guitar interplay with Neil here, very nearly pulls off the enviable trick of summoning up the ghost of the late Danny Whitten himself.

NEIL YOUNG – LIVE AT MASSEY HALL 1971 (2007): A showcase for Young and his songwriting at an early career peak. Played on acoustic guitar and sometimes piano, Young definitely had that audience in full control. Many of the songs, new at the time, went on to become part of his classic Harvest LP. It’s a fine album. The content of the songs is cranked up quite a bit with this intimate setting. There may be no Crazy Horse sonic heaviness on “Cowgirl In The Sand,” but the emotional directness of the setting more than makes up for it.

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