The second incarnation of my blog
Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.
At number 82 is Harvest by Neil Young which is an album I know quite well. Two of the tracks were featured in my first few guitar lessons… a lifetime ago. That was my first introduction to Neil Young and I am still a fan today.
The album was released in 1971 and features a number of successful musicians including: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, and James Taylor.
The opening track Out on the Weekend is a gentle introduction to the country feel that comes and goes throughout. The lolloping Harvest still shows that the album hasn’t quite got into it’s stride (this was one of the guitar lesson songs) but it’s a pleasant track all the same.
The third track A man needs a maid features the London Symphony Orchestra and has very odd lyrics to me as I’m not sure that a man needs a woman. But then we are definitely in the groove for the rest of the album with one of my favourite songs, Heart of gold that has near perfect melody, performance and production. It’s a wonderful ballad with a country twang, but not so country that it becomes twee. Heart of gold features in my Desert Island Discs, as featured on my old blog.
Side two starts with Old Man, a song that features a slightly unusual guitar tuning which drives the rhythm of the song. Neil often uses alternative tunings for songs which always give an interesting feel. The song was about a guy who lived on the ranch Neil had purchased in 1970.
The next song is There’s a world which is the only song on the album that I think doesn’t fit. The production is just too big and it’s the only track I ever skip. Alabama hints at a bit of grunge and despite the distorted guitars in a sea of acoustic songs around it, the track still works very well.
The penultimate song is another classic, The Needle and the damage done, which is about drugs and the problems and heartache caused by their use. The performance is unusual as the song was recorded live at the University of California. I can still play this song on my geeeeetar!
And when you feel that the acoustic mood has set it, more grunge ends the album with Words (Between the Lines of Age), a lengthy piece of country rock with some obvious improvisation in the second half.
Harvest is a very good album, though I tend to think that a couple of his other albums are equally as worthy. The production is simple and effective and the songs, in the main, are of high quality. Neil Young went on to make rock, grunge, acoustic and any other type of music he wanted. The “sister album” released in 1992 is called Harvest Moon and is very nearly as good and worth a listen.
My rating: 7/10
Standout tracks: Heart of gold, The Needle and the damage done
Listen to the album via Youtube here.
See the Top 100 here.