Musicares is a Grammy-affiliated organization set up to help musicians who may need financial assistance with their health care…a very real concern thanks to the dysfunctional health care system in the US. Annually, they choose a “Person Of The Year” and hold a gala event/concert honouring that person. Past honourees have included Brian Wilson and James Taylor. On January 29, 2010, it was Neil Young’s turn to receive the accolades. This DVD is a collection of 17 performance recorded in Los Angeles. The format is as follows…various artists (come connected with the artist in question, some not), perform songs written by the “Person Of The Year”, while he or she sits in the audience nodding appreciatively.
For this Neil Young tribute we have a mish-mash of artists performing Neil’s tunes…John Fogerty, Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Wilco, Dave Matthews, Elvis Costello & Crosby, Stills & Nash are some of the folks taking part. There is no live music from Neil himself, although he does give a short speech at the end of the proceedings.
As expected with such a mix of artists, there are mixed results. The programme begins with a rousing version of Rockin’ In The Free World performed by John Fogerty and Keith Urban with a band that includes organist Booker T. Jones. Fogerty’s vocal is energized and Urban’s guitar solo really rocks. The other highlight is Wilco’s version of Broken Arrow. The song was originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield and featured a complex, ornate arrangement that is difficult to reproduce live. Wilco pulls it off nicely.
Of course there are cringe-inducing moments as well. Josh Groban’s operatic vocal on Harvest Moon is unlistenable and Lady Antebellum’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart is pure mush. The show-closing version of Helpless with Elton John, Leon Russell, Neko Case and Sheryl Crow was something of a let-down as well.
The rest of the performances are serviceable, but not particularly memorable. The Stepford Wife-like voiceover announcer that introduces each act doesn’t help. But the two bonus performances, Ozomatli’s Mr. Soul and Everest’s Revolution Blues do contain a couple of the better performance and capture the spirit of Neil Young much better than Jason Mraz warbling away on Lotta Love.
1. Rockin’ In The Free World – Keith Urban/John Fogerty/Booker T. Jones
2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Lady Antebellum
3. The Needle And The Damage Done – Dave Matthews
4. Tell Me Why – Norah Jones
5. Cinnamon Girl – Dierks Bentley/Booker T. Jones
6. Harvest Moon – Josh Groban
7. Ohio – Ben Harper
8. Don’t Let It Bring You Down – Jackson Browne
9. Broken Arrow – Wilco
10. Lotta Love – Jason Mraz/Shawn Colvin
11. (When You’re On) The Losing End – Elvis Costello
12. Heart Of Gold – James Taylor
13. Down By The River – John Mellencamp/T Bone Burnett
14. Human Highway – Crosby, Stills & Nash
15. Helpless – Elton John/Leon Russell/Neko Case/Sheryl Crow
16. Mr. Soul – Ozomatli
17. Revolution Blues – Everest