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Fresh Harvest

Live album mines vintage year for Neil Young

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Neil Young reaches back to the Spirit of '76 on a new live album, "Songs for Judy," a collection of 22 solo performances recorded nationwide at the tail end of America's Bicentennial in 1976.

Just released on CD and digital platforms, the album will be available in a two-LP vinyl version December 14.

"Songs for Judy" features signature Young compositions like "After the Gold Rush," "Sugar Mountain" and "Love Is a Rose."

There's also one previously unreleased song, "No One Seems to Know," and a crop of tunes from the classic 1972 album "Harvest," including the title track, "A Man Needs a Maid," "The Needle and the Damage Done" and Young's only No. 1 single, "Heart of Gold."

The new album's first single, "Campaigner," came out today, in plenty of time for Election Day. The acoustic ballad is often remembered for Young's sly assertion, "Even Richard Nixon has got soul." (The studio version premiered on 1977's career retrospective, "Decade.")

"Songs for Judy" was culled from cassette tapes recorded by Joel Bernstein, a rock photographer who doubled as Young's guitar technician during his '76 tour with Crazy Horse. Young would open each show with an hour-long solo set.

Bernstein picked the standout performances with help from writer and future director Cameron Crowe ("Almost Famous"), who accompanied Young on the '76 tour while on assignment for Rolling Stone.

"I knew that there would be magic," Bernstein tells Crowe in a conversation posted on Neil Young Archives.

"Listening to it today is a little like discovering postcards from home," says Crowe, describing the "reckless and beautiful" acoustic performances on "Songs for Judy" as "sparkling, sometimes stony, often surprising and always heartfelt."

"It was a precious time in Neil Young's journey," he adds. "'Rust Never Sleeps' was just around the corner…It's Bicentennial year in America, Neil Young and Crazy Horse are in your town and out walks Neil with his acoustic. Press play."

Photo by Gems/Redferns

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