Neil Young: Heart of Gold Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 2006 Rated: PG (for some drug related lyrics) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Audio:English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English Time: 103 minutes. Disc Format: 2 DVD-9’s Case Style: Dual tray keep case. I trade a lot of live music shows, with a focus on Wilco. I met my buddy Phil through one of these trades and he has since become a bit of a musical mentor to me as well as a good friend. We try to meet once a month or so to eat and discuss music past and present. Phil’s a huge fan of Springsteen, Costello and Neil Young. As we began trading, Phil would always burn me copies of live Young shows that he would tell me, “You’ve just gotta hear this one.” And he was always right, there’s nothing like a live Neil Young show. Last year at one of our meets, we were talking about the most recent Boss record, when there was a pause in the conversation. Phil broke the silence by saying, “We almost lost Neil, man.” That was the first time that I really stopped to think about it, that there was that possibility we could have lost Neil to an aneurysm. Luckily, he had surgery and he’s doing fine, but this was a reminder to me what a treasure he is that could have easily been lost. Based on this medical condition, coupled with the death of his father, Neil recorded Prairie Wind, a collection of ten songs filled with loss, hope and philosophical musings. Jonathan Demme has filmed the first live performance of the record at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, home of The Grand Old Opry. Neil Young: Heart of Gold is Demme’s document of an incredible night of music where Young and his band perform the new record in its entirety, as well as several Young classics. The performance is set against a beautiful and rustic backdrop, and Young and the band are dressed in period outfits as if they had just walked out of Kansas circa 1875. Through the whole performance, you are treated to moments of lyrical beauty, stunning melodies and emotional resonance. Video: The DVD is presented anamorphically in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is an exceptional video presentation, with plenty of fine detail, rich, saturated colors and deep blacks. I was amazed at how good the transfer of this disc was as there was only one part where I noticed any edge enhancement. The color palate is rich and bold, showcasing the beautiful set work, lighting and costumes of the performance. There is fine gradation between the differences in the backdrops and outfits of the performers. Flesh tones are accurate and look perfect under the stage lights. Blacks are excellent and show very nice shadow detail: you can see all of Young’s facial expressions under the shadow of the brim of his hat. Video compression was not noticeable and there was no film dirt noted. Congratulations to Paramount and Jonathan Demme for time well spent on this presentation! Audio: The disc features English Dolby Stereo, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, as well as a DTS 5.1 mix. I watched the disc with the DTS track engaged. This is one of the nicest concert discs I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Most concert discs sound just like that: they sound like there has been no processing so the listener maintains the “you are there” feeling. Demme took a different approach with this picture by spending more time in the studio during post-production to enhance the stage experience and give the recording a more intimate feel. He notes in one of the bonus segments, he wanted the viewer to feel as if they were going in to see a show as opposed to a concert. The surrounds are used for ambient and reverb effects and they are only really noticed when the audience comes to life for the song breaks. By presenting the audio portion in this manner, Demme allows the viewer to concentrate on Young and the band and not be distracted by the annoyances of the audience or other ambient distractions. Bass effects are tight and punchy without rumbling the listener out of his seat. Instrumentation and voices are natural sounding and clear and they reside primarily in the front channels. I compared several scenes for differences between the DD and DTS tracks and I found the DTS track to have a better sound field and more presence overall. The DD track sounded thin in comparison, and it was also considerably louder when I’d jump back and forth between the two tracks. Bonus Material: Bonus Song: He Was the King: an outtake from the film. This is letterboxed and in stereo. Not a bad song, but probably cut for the sake of time. Fellow Travelers (13:12): Young and Jonathan Demme discuss their mutual admiration of one another as well as how the project was started. Young explains some of his motivations behind Prairie Wind. Cruising with Neil (8:15): Demme and Young drive around Nashville as Young talks about this point in his life that brought him to write Prairie Wind. He also talks about Nashville and Emmylou Harris. These Old Guitars (3:03): we are given a tour of Young’s numerous guitars with some history of several of them. Cruising with the Players (12:44): As Demme found some extra time filming the movie, he would take the musicians out for car rides to tell stories about Young, their careers and how the began playing together. They also try to explain Young’s appeal, and their surprise at how quick the record was written and recorded. Rehearsal Diaries Narrated by Jonathan Demme: Soundcheck Studios, Ryman Auditorium, Day of the Performance (38:41 total): Demme created a video journal of what it’s like for Neil Young to put a show together. This is a behind the scenes video diary of the project with a great commentary from Demme. While I don’t think this movie really needed a commentary of the feature itself, this was a much better idea to have the commentary attached to the rehearsal and preparation. The three segments can be played together or individually. Finishing Touches (5:21): Demme discusses how the separate elements of the project came together into a cohesive whole. There is some behind the scenes footage from the studio mix downs and post recording sessions as well. Warming Up with Neil and the Jubilee Singers (6:25): a quick behind the scenes video of Young and the Jubilee Singers warming up before Farm Aid 2005. Young is seen being playful at the piano and challenging the singers. Blast From the Past – Neil Young’s performance on the 1971 Johnny Cash Show (2:40): A young Young singing one of his first hits. Conclusions: Recorded in ten days in Nashville, Neil Young: Heart of Gold is a document of one of the world's finest songwriters diving into his emotional pool. Not only does this disc have an outstanding audio and video presentation, it contains an exceptional set of extras that document not only the making of the project but capture a moment in the career of an artist. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!