Sunday, September 29, 2013

78. Harvest (1972) Neil Young

  1. Out on the Weekend
  2. Harvest
  3. A Man Needs a Maid
  4. Heart of Gold
  5. Are You Ready for the Country?
  6. Old Man
  7. There's a World
  8. Alabama
  9. The Needle and the Damage Done
  10. Words (Between the Lines of Age)

Harvest is not only a Neil Young album it's an album that only Neil could do. It's uniquely Young and a clear statement about just how amazingly good everyone's favourite Canadian was back in '72 and how removed from his contemporaries the great man was. Nobody else was in his tree, to quote John Lennon and Harvest is the best way to clearly appreciate just how unique Neil's Tree was.

Neil could write tunes. He could create a memorable song and there are some truly beautiful melodies on Harvest. A man needs a maid, Heart of Gold, Old Man and the title track are all classic songs and the rest of the tracks aren't really filler either. They're all products of Neil's performing schedule which saw him debut new songs before an audience and change them as he went. They weren't being birthed in the studio they were being captured in an already honed state.

Neil could write words too. Old Man has one of my favourite lyrics of all time and the line "Doesn't mean that much to me to mean that much to you" is my pick for greatest line from a song ever. It's not just a well-said and pithy phrase it's a perfect summation of Neil's life. He doesn't really need to be loved and adored, he's just doing what he does and if you like it that's fine but if you don't he's not bothered. For me it's what sets Young and Dylan apart from people like Jagger and Bono who seem desperate to be adored. Neil will thank you for your support, Bono needs it.

Neil can play music. People might argue endlessly about whether Dylan or Young writes the better songs. There are many who claim Neil is greater and doesn't get the respect he deserves. Others will claim nobody touches Dylan. Personally I believe both are true. But nobody is debating who the more competent musician is. Neil is a more than capable Piano player. We picture him with guitar in hand but the truth is he's quite at home tinkling ivories and can accompany himself well on a keyboard. He's also a great harmonica player. Out on the Weekend features some beautiful playing. Dylan might be the first person everyone thinks of when they talk about folk harpists but I prefer Neil's playing any day of the week. It's soulful and restrained and a joy to hear. Of course the musical area in which he truly excels is playing a guitar. Neil is not just a competent guitarist he's one of the world's best which he shows more than capably strumming an acoustic on The Needle and the Damage Done and hauling an electric through almost seven minutes of Words (Between the Lines).

Neil can sing. I love Neil's voice. It's a perfect instrument unto itself. That wavering thing he does when singing "Every Junkie's like a setting suuuuun", the soul he puts into Old Man. It's perfect stuff and justifies the claim that Neil is one of the greatest voices in contemporary music.

Neil is not only uniquely talented he has a unique talent and a unique ability to boldly create an album that nobody else would dare go near. Other people release albums that have some sort of thematic consistency. This is my country album. Here's my rock album. I recorded this with an orchestra. This is live. This is my attempt to do Beatles covers in a bluegrass style with a tuba player and choir made up entirely of birds. Neil however is prepared to do all of them at once (except the bird choir thing). Harvest has country flavoured tunes with steel guitars (Out on the weekend and the title track), straight ahead rock (Alabama), loose jammy rock (Words Between the Lines of Age), live acoustic ballads (The Needle and the Damage Done) and two tracks (A Man Needs a Maid and There's a World) that feature a full orchestra. It's a thematic mess but the whole thing works incredibly well as a coherent whole. It's a great album whose disparate elements seem to compliment each other well. Neil's songwriting, voice and lyrics keep the various styles together and make it feel like a great work and not a weird compilation.

Is Harvest Neil's best album? It's a debate that rages long and hard whenever Mr Young is discussed by his legions of devoted fans. Personally I struggle to pick a favourite but this is definitely my pick for one of the greatest albums of 1972. If you haven't heard it you deserve to check it out. You'll know the hits but even the lesser tracks are worth your time.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Mr Anti-Capitalism does not give anything away for FREE. YOU GOTTA PAY FOR THIS CRAP!"

-When the hell did Neil Young declare himself Mr Anti- Captalism?

So is this a Harvest you're happy to reap or would you rather leave it alone? Let me know below.


  1. I am a new convert to NY.
    I went to his Melb concert in March. Wow. When an old artist says they are going to do something from their new album we often say noooo. But anything of his latest: Psychedelic Pill is worth listening too. Especially Live. What a concert , what an artist. I do like Harvest too.

    1. He's having a real return to form lately. Psychadelic Pill is definitely worth having and so are the live shows he's let radio stations broadcast lately.