Harvest

Neil Young

Reprise, 1973

http://www.neilyoung.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/16/2005

Neil Young's music has changed from the release of this album, morphed into a cross between electric protest rock and laid-back country/acoustic numbers, depending on what mood he's in that year. Harvest still stands as a fair cross between the two, an album that shows Young and Crazy Horse in a relaxed state of mind.

To this day, Harvest is Young's most popular lbum, though it is far from his best or most cathartic - that honor goes to either Tonight's the Night or Rust Never Sleeps. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 It's an album as dusty and lonely as a plain in Kansas, which matches the album's plain yellow cover, as if for most of these songs Neil took a guitar out to the middle of a wheat field and recorded what came to mind. It's overtly country in some spots, but Young's ear for flourishes and original grunge attitude are present, as are the trademark heartfelt, honest lyrics.

"Harvest" and "Out On The Weekend" are slow, meandering, creaky front porch on a moonlit night tunes, giving way to the orchestra-meets-acoustic mashup "A Man Needs A Maid." The song has a quiet grandeur and the strings add to it; it's a forgotten gem that is far from hokey. Would that "Heart of Gold" was the same way; it's doubtless catchy and sounds great but is a bit trite. "Old Man" is a fine muse on mortality.

The real highlight is "The Needle And The Damage Done," a tribute to a former bandmate and a heroin casualty. It's only two minutes long but doesn't need to be longer, as it's one of the most stark and honest songs ever written about addiction. Young pours enough emotion into his lyrics to make the listener feel his pain: "I saw you knocking at my cellar door / 'I love you baby, can I have some more?' / Gone, gone, the damage done." He then switches to flat-out biography: "I hit the city and I lost my band / I watched the needle take another man." Simple, direct, and honest.

The rest of the disc is rather mundane, with the other orchestra tracks "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" a bit overblown, sounding like a grafted-on addition to a weak song. "Alabama" and "Are You Ready for the Country?" aren't anything to write home about either.

Young had hit is stride early with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and would hit it again later with Tonight's the Night, so while this disc is a pleasant excursion into a dusty old photograph, it's not exactly the classic it's been made out to be. 

Rating: B-

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