The Good

Jonathan Demme has a great reverence for Neil Young and it shows.

The Bad

I wish I could have watched this on a better system to get the full effect of it being an audio DVD.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold as just a performance DVD gives us Young at the Ryam Auditorium performing songs off his new album "Prairie Wind," as well as playing the standards that he is known for. While I am sure that diehard Young fans would have appreciated this movie in the theater, I think that it's rightful place is in the annuls of DVD. Young is accompanied by artists such as Pegi Young and Emmylou Harris, but it is never forgotten that this is his show. He is such a strong performer simply by virtue of how he plays his songs, that he needs nothing more than himself and a guitar. The fact that he has a backup band only gives this DVD that much more fullness.

Features

"He Was the King" Bonus Song

There really isn't too much to say about this other than it's an extra song in the concert that we don't get to see in the performance part of the DVD. It resembles the other footage and why they didn't include it in the regular performance is anyone's guess. Still, fans of Neil Young will be very happy to find this on here.

Six Featurettes

Six featurettes make up this section beginning with Fellow Travelers which looks at both Neil Young and Jonathan Demme and how this collaboration came to be. Basically, for Demme this was a dream concert and when you see these two people here, it really would be hard imagining anybody else capturing the the mood and the show in the way that Demme has. What sets this DVD apart from other performances pieces is, in my opinion, the degree to which Demme cares and shows reverence to the music he is capturing.

The other featurettes have titles like Cruising With Neil in which he drives around Nashville talking about the album he has created, musical instruments and music in general. These Old Guitars examines the instruments with which Young chooses to perform (this is a must view for anyone who fancies themselves a guitar player). Another really good featurette in this collection is Cruising with the Players because we hear from people like Grant Boatwright and Spooner Oldham as they discuss their relationships with Neil Young and how they all came to play together.

The last featurettes on here are Finishing Touches, which looks at the postproduction work that has been done on the album and this DVD, and Warming Up with Neil and the Jubilee Singers. Overall, this a very comprehensive, meat and potatoes, six part expose on the talent behind this DVD.

Rehearsal Diaries

Yet another personal piece of the DVD which is narrated by Jonathan Demme. He gives his perspective on why he feels the way he does about Neil's music, and how he hopes to best express that through the language of film. Interestingly, even though this is a documentary, he doesn't seem to let the conventions of that genre limit how he's telling the story of Young's music. There are three diaries in total that make up this section.

Blast From the Past

A very long haired Neil Young plays to a captive audience on the 1971 Johnny Cash show. I am amazed how good the transfer and compression of this section was to DVD. Also, I think it's amazing that Young's voice doesn't sound like it has lost anything over the years. This is a treat and seeing and hearing Johnny Cash makes it that much more sweet.

Video

Widescreen Version. Enhanced for 16x9 TVs. By the look of this DVD, it seems as though it was shot on some form of high definition video. It might be film as the image seems more concentrated than regular high definition, but overall the look of this DVD was exactly what I expected. While I am not such a diehard Neil Young fan that I could sit back and just watch the performance, it does make for some soothing music to have on in the background.

Audio

Dolby Digital - English 5.1 Surround. English 2.0 Surround. English 5.1 DTS Surround. English Subtitles. This being a a documentary of an accomplished musician, done by one of the world's most technically proficient directors, I would not be surprised if even non-technical people were to figure out ways to rip all the audio off this disc and listen to it separately. Considering that there are two discs in this collection, it is doubly impressive how sharp the audio is during all the musical numbers.

Package

A reddish gold is the dominant color on the front of this DVD. Neil Young stands playing his guitar with a train passing by in the far distance. The back cover offers a small, arty collage from the show, a description of what Neil Young: Heart of Gold is about, a Special Features listing, cast list and technical specs. Both of the discs that make of this set are housed in a regular, double disc, amaray case.

Final Word

So packed is Neil Young: Heart of Gold that I was getting confused reviewing it. However, I honestly think that this DVD benefits from all the supplemental features. Without them, we only get the performance and while I admit that that is probably enough for many, I think that all the extras inside this two disc DVD really enhance it. It makes Heart of Gold an experience.

Since the extra features offer up so much information about Neil Young, his players and his music, Neil Young: Heart of Gold transcends the mere label of music DVD and, like Young's music, becomes something more.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold was released February 17, 2006.