Let's make one thing immediately clear, amigo: "Decade" is certainly no mercenary enterprise intended to exploit the dedication of Neil Young's audience. The apparently indulgent and extravagant design of this triple album retrospective is powerfully justified by the impressive authority and diversity of its contents, and the invaluably comprehensive account of Young's artistic development and maturity into one of rock's most individual and arresting performers that it so generously and lucidly offers.
The compilation follows a vaguely chronological course through Young's career, from the precocious adventures of his work with Buffalo Springfield—"Mr. Soul," "Broken Arrow" and, especially, the immaculately conceived "Expecting To Fly," remain startlingly fresh and vivid—through his stirring alliance with the robust, bar-room rock of Crazy Horse and beyond the mellow pastures of "After the Goldrush" and "Harvest."…
The selections from [the earlier] albums are discriminating and calculated to reflect the consistent pertinence of Young's emotional perceptions….
Similarly, the albums illustrate Young's determined pursuit of integrity….
Curiously, though, there is no reference to Young's seminal masterpiece, "Time Fades Away", one of the most extreme performances ever captured on vinyl….
Of the five previously unissued tracks, "Down To The Wire", recorded originally for the Springfields' album, is unremarkable but serves its purpose here as an introduction to Young's contributions to that band; "Love Is A Rose" … is similarly slight, but rescued from inconsequence by its rustic humour.
The remaining three cuts in this category, however, are all vintage Young: "Winterlong", has the seductive charm of the classic "Walk On" …, and a reflective tone that it shares with the more introspective "Deep Forbidden Lake," whose solitary atmosphere and air of resignation recalls "Borrowed Tune".
"Campaigner" is the penultimate track on this collection … and it's a measure of Young's enduring talent that its evocative, if elusive, power is challenged in its reflection of a contemporary mood of weary resistance by very few recent tours by either his peers or those who have sought attention in the ten years since he first emerged. Long may he continue to run.
Allan Jones, "Ten Up—Long May He Run," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), November 26, 1977, p. 27.