Album review: The 25th Anniversary Bridge School Concerts

Neil Young’s annual Charity bash never ceases to amaze.

For 25 years now, Neil Young has leveraged his friendships in the music industry in the service of the Bridge School, founded by his wife Pegi and Jim Forderer, along with speech pathologist Dr. Marilyn Buzolich, providing children with complex communication needs a proper and compassionate education.

The event always delivers a top shelf roster of artists and this year’s show was particularly good, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Metallica to name a few.  The long running tradition of acoustic performances (suggested, but not required) is adhered to in a tasteful fashion, working well and providing some interesting alternate takes on familiar tunes.  Bruce Springsteen leads the way, with a slowly nuanced rendition of “Born in the USA,” segueing into The Dave Matthews Band performing “Too Much.”

Young doesn’t hog the show here joining in, both with Crazy Horse for “Love and Only Love” and past bandmates Crosby, Stills and Nash, for a soulful rendition of “Déjà Vu,” with CSN&Y in particularly good form.  Though this group has defined the folkie genre (or at least illuminated it more brightly than any of their contemporaries), the torch has been passed on successfully and safely to the Fleet Foxes.  With rock solid harmony and pipes not nearly as road weathered as their ancestors, their performance of “Blue Ridge Mountains” perks up the ears of the newest fans, while reminding those of us that have been paying attention for years what a good trip it’s been.

The variety of the artists presented and their choice of material suggests that the level of camaraderie was high for this performance.  Young and his staff should be congratulated for getting such a star studded cast together for this one.  Perhaps the only tune a bit off the mark is McCartney’s “Get Back.”  However, it’s more than made up for by Metallica’s rousing take on “Disposable Heroes,” punctuated by Jonathan Rickman’s “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” and finished with the Who’s (at least the remaining two members of the Who – Daltry and Townsend) “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  Indeed.

Considering Young’s ongoing rants about sound quality in todays recordings, one would expect these discs to sound brilliant as well as offer meaningful performance, and indeed this compilation delivers the goods on both levels.  Cranking this one up with the lights down low will have you instantly reaching for your lighter, whether to ignite an illegal substance, or to raise your hand in triumph, perhaps both.

The two CD set or 3 DVD set is available to order now.



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