Neil Young - Heart of Gold (2006)

Genre(s): Documentary
Paramount Classics || PG - 103 minutes - $29.99 || June 13th, 2006
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2006-06-18

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer(s): NA
Cast: Neil Young, et al

Theatrical Release Date: February 17th, 2006

Supplemental Material:
  • Bonus Song "He Was the King"
  • Rehearsal Diaries
  • Fellow Travelers - Featurette
  • Cruising the Neil - Featurette
  • These Old Guitars - Featurette
  • Cruising With the Players - Featurette
  • Finishing Touches - Featurette
  • Warming up With Neil and the Jubilee Singers
  • Blast From the Past: Neil Young Performance on the Johnny Cash Show

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.


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Note: Images are not taken from the DVD.

Heart of Gold chronicles legendary singer/songwriter Neil Young’s latest concert in Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The concert was inspired by Young’s recent album "Prairie Wind," which was released last year. Young has always been an artist who is never afraid of what others will think of him and at the same time is outspoken about the times he is living in. Young most recently released "Living With War," which was inspired by the country's latest conflicts in the middle east as well as President Bush's administration as a whole. "Prairie Wind" on the other hand is much more personal. Young recorded and wrote all the songs in a very short time period. Young also put the songs on the album in the same order that he wrote and recorded them. Because of this, Young believes that the album is much more organic.

In the concert, Young performs those songs in order that they are on the album as well. The first part of the concert, Young only performs the ten songs off of "Prairie Wind." Young's emotions are all unleashed as he plays each of the songs. We hear the story behind these new songs like "It’s A Dream," "Prairie Wind" (which is inspired by Young’s father having dementia) as well as “Here For You.” Director Jonathan Demme does a great job of keeping the camera shots fairly simple and using the background as a reflection of mood and the tone of the song. For all the songs that Young performs off of his "Prairie Wind" album, the background has a golden almost wheat like color reflecting the farm land Young grew up on.

As Young performs his classic songs, the background suddenly shifts and slowly the lighting is brighter. Young performs classic songs like "Harvest Moon" and of course "Heart of Gold." We also get to hear about what inspired Young to write his other classic song “Old Man.” Demme does a great job overall in terms of shooting the concert. Most concert films (with the exception of a film like Martin Scorsese’s fantastic "The Last Waltz") show dozens of audience reaction shots and Demme does not. With the exception of the opening, Demme keeps the cameras strictly on stage with the band to capture Young's emotions as well as the rest of the band playing together.

The final song Young performs is "The Old Laughing Lady," only this time Young performs it solo on stage without any audience members. The shot is amazing because we see Young in front of the empty legendary Ryman Auditorium in plain clothes and without his hat. Young goes back to his roots in terms of his childhood and back to his roots in terms of being a musician. What better place to do that than in the heart of where American music was born: Nashville. The film itself is fantastic to watch, especially if you’re a fan of Young. Young’s performances are never dull and his different emotions on each song are always unleashed giving each song a different feel. The contrast between Young’s new music and old music gives the film a feeling of traveling through the mind of Young and his growth as a musician.


The only extra on the first disc is an extra song left out of the final cut of the concert. Young performs “He Was the King,” a song dedicated to Elvis Presley.

The second disc has several featurettes showing the Young and his band as well as Demme and his crew preparing for the concert.

The first extra is Fellow Travelers, which runs about 13 minutes. Director Jonathan Demme talks about what attracted him to want to direct this concert and why he wanted to work with Neil Young. Demme also discusses how he wanted to set-up the cameras so that would not be so distracting to Young and the rest of the musicians. Demme and Young also discuss how they wanted to visualize going back to the roots of American music and creating an almost dream-like concert.

The next extra is Cruising With Neil, which is about 8 minutes. Demme basically interviews Young about the album “Prairie Wind” and why he decided to perform at the Ryman in Nashville. Neil also discusses the fact that he wanted to put together something that would bring his friends together and not a concert with just big studio names.

These Old Guitars is a short 3 minute extra that shows Young’s various guitars and the history behind them.

Cruising With the Players runs about 13 minutes and focuses on Demme driving around Nashville interviewing all the other musicians involved in the concert. The musicians discuss how they met Neil and their thoughts on Neil as a person and a musician.

The most in depth extra is the documentary called Rehearsal Diaries. This extra is broken down into three segments and runs about 40 minutes. Director Jonathan Demme narrates each segment as we get to see the concert begin from scratch. Demme and Young had 10 days to put the concert together and we get to see all the pre-concert preparations. We get to see Young orchestrating the concert and Demme orchestrating what he wants to do in terms of filming it. We get to see the rehearsals progress from the studio into the Ryman and finally the night of the performance.

The last of the featurettes is Finishing Touches, which only lasts about 5 minutes. It’s the most interesting of the extras because we get to see the post-production on the concert. We see Demme and Young working on mixing the final audio mix for the concert, the editing as well as other final touches. It would have been nice to see a little more because we generally do not get to see that kind of post-production when it comes to concert films.

The final extras are Neil Young warming up with the Jubilee Singers before the concert as well as Young performing "The Needle and the Damage Done" on the Johnny Cash Show in 1971.



For a concert film it is very important that the audio be top notch and Paramount made sure that it was. The sound comes off very crisp throughout the concert and is very clean sounding overall. The DVD includes a 5.1 Surround Sound mix in both Dolby Digital and DTS format with the addition of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track as well. The video is also fairly good. The various background colors on stage as well as the colors on the elaborate costumes are captured very nicely during the concert.


Overall, Paramount has put together a nice package for a concert film. Fans of Martin Scorsese's documentary "No Direction Home" about Bob Dylan or Scorsese's earlier work for "The Last Waltz" will also likely enjoy this film. Demme's film captures the emotions of Young from a young boy on the farm to the legend he has become today. The extras are great for the most part and the video/audio transfers are also very good. This DVD is most definitely a must own for old and new fans of Neil Young.