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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Finally this hour, for over a decade, Neil Young fans have been awaiting the release of a huge bunch of rare recordings. They span Young's nearly half-century-long career.

Well, this week, the waiting is finally over. The first 10-disc volume of "Neil Young Archives" has been released.

Will Hermes has this review.

(Soundbite of song, "Cinnamon Girl")

Mr. NEIL YOUNG (Singer): (Singing) I wanna live with a cinnamon girl. I can be happy the rest of my life with a cinnamon girl.

WILL HERMES: Being a Neil Young fan isn't always easy. There have been lean years, some puzzling political stances and quite a few less than satisfying concept albums, but I'm determined to stick it out. And in many ways, the first volume of the gargantuan "Neil Young Archives" is payback.

(Soundbite of song, "Expecting to Fly")

Mr. YOUNG: (Singing) There you stood on the edge of your feather, expecting to fly.

HERMES: Covering 1963 to 1972, the set is overflowing with great music - some previously released, some not. Young was working with four remarkable bands during those years: Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Crazy Horse; and the Stray Gators, who backed him on the classic LP "Harvest."

The collection also shows Young working out songs as a solo performer like this 1965 demo, "The Rent Is Always Due," whose melody would be repurposed in one of his signature tunes, "I Am a Child."

(Soundbite of song, "The Rent is Always Due")

Mr. YOUNG: (Singing) You're still the child suspended in space, crying out to you.

HERMES: It's also fascinating to hear Young rotating songs among groups, like this gorgeous version of "Tell Me Why" from his solo album, "After the Gold Rush," performed here with Crosby, Stills & Nash.

(Soundbite of song, "Tell Me Why")

Mr. YOUNG: (Singing) Sailing heart-ships through broken harbors out on the waves in the night. Still the searcher must ride the dark horse, racing alone in his fright. Tell me why.

HERMES: But the multimedia "Neil Young Archives" set tests your devotion even if you're a serious fan. Though it's available in CD or DVD formats, Young is pushing the ultra hi-fi Blu-ray version, which allows you to download additional content over time. Of course, it requires a Blu-ray player, which of course, I felt duty-bound to purchase in spite of my annoyance at having to add another dubious piece of hardware to my cramped living room stereo rack, but hey, I give. Even recordings I know by heart sounded brand new. Since this is radio, you'll have to use your imagination here.

(Soundbite of song, "Heart of Gold")

Mr. YOUNG: (Singing) I wanna live, I wanna give. I've been a miner for a heart of gold.

HERMES: Music aside, the "Neil Young Archives" includes a ridiculous amount of ephemera. Clearly, this man throws out nothing. Between the 236-page book and the multimedia submenus, there are yellowed newspaper articles, handwritten lyric sheets, personal photographs and rare picture sleeves, old radio interviews and Young's stoner-surrealist midnight movie, "Journey Through the Past."

To many, it'll all seem like overkill, but if you're like me, you'll waste hours with this stuff. Neil Young's "Archives" is definitely the new gold standard for artist anthologies, and I'm sure many will follow suit since it's a cash cow concept for an ailing industry. But few musicians have a body of work that deserves this kind of treatment. This guy definitely does.

(Soundbite of song, "Heart of Gold")

BLOCK: That's Will Hermes reviewing Neil Young's "Archives Volume 1." You can listen to three songs from the new Neil Young box set at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Heart of Gold")

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