There've been so many Neil Young tribute albums released that it's tough to keep track of them all. And while some of those albums featured incredible interpretations of Young's work, the recordings were generally made by indie and underground acts and geared to the more adventurous of his fans. A MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young, available on DVD and Blu-ray only, is different: this is homage paid by big stars meant for a mainstream audience. Keith Urban, John Fogerty and Booker T. Jones start the show with a raucous cover of "Rockin' in the Free World" where Jones lurks in the background playing organ fills while Urban and Fogerty take turns with the vocals and then shoot it out with their guitars during the song's lengthy jam segment. Young, watching from the front row, beams from ear-to-ear after the performance and pumps his fist in the air in approval. Most of the performers play it straight and use Young's original arrangements; Dave Matthews' take on the sad acoustic number "The Needle & the Damage Done," James Taylor's rendition of "Heart of Gold" and Lady Antebellum's version of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" don't change a thing. Elvis Costello's interpretation of "(When You're On) The Losing End" is stark and startling but the most interesting cut is "Ohio;" Ben Harper performs the protest song as a gospel-flavored Delta blues. Most of the material here comes from early in Young's career and Wilco picks a super-oldie for their contribution; a cover of Buffalo Springfield's sublimely odd "Broken Arrow." Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Jackson Browne, Dierks Bentley, Jason Mraz and Shawn Colvin, John Mellencamp and Crosby, Stills & Nash also perform. The show ends with Elton John, Leon Russell, Neko Case and Sheryl Crow performing the weepy "Helpless" before Neil is brought on stage to be honored as MusiCare's (a charitable organization that aids music people in time of need) Person of the Year. All the performers here remember that the show is about Neil, not them, and play reverently without showboating, allowing the film to capture the sound and vision elegantly. A definite keeper, especially for fans of Young's first five or six albums.
A MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young
[an error occurred while processing this directive]