Young has often voiced his concerns about the poor quality of the audio we’ve all been listening to for the past several years. At the D: Dive into Media conference in 2012, he said that the average MP3 file only contains about 5 percent of the audio from an original recording, according to The Verge.
Unlike many artists, Young seemed was dismissive about piracy concerns and streaming music. “It doesn’t affect me because I look at the internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone,” he said. “If you really want to hear it, let’s make it available, let them hear it, let them hear the 95 percent of it.”
He even Kickstarted his own music service, only to become frustrated with the whole process and eventually announcing that he was pulling his catalog from all streaming services due to the low quality. “When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never,” he wrote.
That time is apparently now. The Neil Young Archive gives fans the opportunity to listen to nearly everything he’s ever done free, at least through the end of June. After that, you can subscribe for a “modest cost.”
Young’s own high-quality music service is called Xstream, and it’s an adaptable service that changes with available bandwidth. The Master setting delivers 24-bit high-resolution audio, or you can toggle back to 320kbps if necessary.
The site contains everything Young has released as a soloist or bandleader, plus his work as a member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. However, as Pitchfork notes, unreleased albums and recordings Chrome Dreams, Homegrown, and Toast are not yet available to stream.
The site navigation itself is rather clunky and old-fashioned, and that’s probably by design. In his introductory video, Young encourages exploration and discovery. A good place to start is probably the Timeline section, where you can scroll through various milestones during Young’s five decades of performing, and click through to the various albums from different points in his career.
Films and books are also included, so you can spend many hours just browsing through the career of this incredible musician. As he admonishes in the welcome video, “Don’t forget to have a good time. And try not to get lost.”
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