Neil Young: vocals, guitar; Frank (Pancho) Sampedro: keyboards; Steve Lawrence: lead tenor saxophone; Ben Keith: alto saxophone; Larry Cragg: baritone saxophone; Claude Cailliet: trombone; John Fumo: trumpet; Tom Bray: trumpet; Rick Rosas: bass; Chad Cromwell: drums
Following his well-documented artistic control feud with Geffen Records during much of the 1980s, Neil Young returned to his former label Reprise by the end of the decade. Often perceived as a continuation of his more eclectic years at Geffen, his first album for Reprise, This Note's For You, was his most consistent and uncompromised album in years. Fronting a nine piece rhythm and blues band that included longtime cohorts Ben Keith and Poncho Sampedro (although not playing their most familiar instruments), as well as a full horn section, The Bluenotes were a powerhouse band that showcased yet another side of Neil - a rhythm and blues man.
When The Bluenotes hit the road, Young abandoned the arena circuit and often performed two shows a night at intimate clubs and theaters. Performing only new song and unheard back catalogue material, the repertoire was largely unfamiliar to audiences. With the exception of the album's title song, a humorous attack on corporate sponsorship, few had heard any of the material beforehand, but the group's commitment and Young's distinct lead guitar work won over many a skeptical listener. Unfortunately, only two brief examples of The Bluenotes live on stage were ever officially issued (both on Young's Lucky 13 album), so this important stage of his career has been largely overlooked or trivialized.
This exceptional quality live recording captures the first of two spirited Bluenotes performances at The World In New York City on April 19, 1988. Without covering anyone, Young pays homage to blues influences like Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, Michael Bloomfield and all three Kings (Albert, Freddie and B.B.). This is Young pursuing a very big sound while exploring some of the root elements in his music. One listen to this performance and many may re-evaluate this vastly underrated phase in Young's career as a live performing artist.