Neil Young on Friday opened an exhaustive online archive of his half-century career, as the rock legend charged ahead on a politically loaded new album.
In a project whose breadth has no parallels among musicians of his level of fame, Young made all of his albums available for streaming alongside the accompanying lyrics, credits and artwork as well as videos and tour information.
In a delight for fans of the ever-prolific Canadian with years of rumored obscurities, the Neil Young Archives includes around 10 unreleased albums although most are not yet fully uploaded.
Marking his life's journey, Young inaugurated his archive and new album by playing a livestreamed solo concert at a 225-seat theater in his rural hometown of Omemee, Ontario.
Envisioning the archives as a high-tech version of collections that authors and fellow rock elders generally establish at universities, Young said he would continually update the site, accessible at neilyoungarchives.com.
Young wrote that he had spent years designing the site, which will be free through June 30 after which Young said he will charge a "very modest" fee.
Rocky past with streaming
The project marks the latest turn in the 72-year-old rocker's turbulent relationship with online music.
Several years ago he developed Pono, a portable device vaunted to provide the best-ever mobile sound quality, but it was recently discontinued.
Young for around a year took all of his music down from Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming sites, complaining that the sound quality was subpar and had lowered the bar for the entire industry.
For his online archive, Young said he had worked with the Singaporean firm OraStream to develop the finest possible audio, with music files that carry up to 20 times as much data as MP3s, the files typically used on streaming platforms and iTunes.
In recognition that not all listeners have advanced computers or fast connections, Young also lets users choose to stream the music at less bandwidth.
Prioritizing quality and detail over efforts to be user-friendly, the site has a sleek but cluttered interface in the shape of an old-style stereo with knobs and dials, with multiple ways to filter searches.
Young himself explains how to use his archives in a 10-minute video after which he offers matter-of-factly: "Don't forget to have a good time and try not to get lost."
Forceful takedown of Trump
The archives go back to 1963 and Young's very first recording: the single "The Sultan," recorded in Winnipeg.
The site ends with his brand new album out Friday, "The Visitor," Young's second work with Promise of the Real, a hard-charging back-up band featuring Lukas Nelson, son of country great Willie Nelson.
Young, never reticent about his political views, lays directly into President Donald Trump from the get-go on "Already Great," a play on the tycoon's "Make America Great Again" election slogan.
A longtime resident of California, the artist best known for "Rockin' in the Free World" attacks Trump and, as on recent albums, sings of the environment in nearly religious terms.
"The Boy King don't believe in Science / It goes against the Big Money Truth," Young sings on "Stand Tall."
"The Visitor" marks one of Young's more consistently forceful albums of recent years, the high-energy guitars giving way to reflective bridges as his voice veers toward highs.
Yet there are also musical shifts, with straight-up blues on "Diggin' a Hole" and a merging of rock with strings on "Children of Destiny."
He appears to allude to Trump's promised barrier with Mexico on "Change of Heart" as Young sings, "Hate is not worth using / Even as cement / To build your walls that you hide behind."
And on "When Bad Got Good," Young turns Trump's election taunt of Hillary Clinton back against him. The rocker bellows: "Lock him up!"