Neil Young



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
August 7th, 2005 | 135 replies

Release Date: 1972 | Tracklist

Neil Young's 30+ career albums are as varied as any other artist, spanning psychedelic folk to folk-rock to hard rock to pre-grunge. Despite the unpredictable and often self-indulgent nature of his music, it is not surprising Young has achieved such lasting commercial success. His 1972 release, |Harvest, was an immediate success, hitting the top of the album charts and sustaining its popularity to become that year's most purchased record. That popularity is justified even today by the considerable commercial weight the album has, remaining his most popular record to this date.

Like his breakthrough album, 1970s After The Goldrush, Harvest was intended by Young to be a country album. He recruited the Stray Gators for the task, a band which consisted of Jack Nitzsche (who also co-produced), Ben Keith, Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey. The majority of the album was recorded in Nashville, with Young in much pain, sporting an uncomfortable back brace. Fellow singer-songwriters James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt were also persuaded to contribute vocal tracks.

Despite the most rigid of intentions, Harvest does not manifest itself simply as a "country album." Single 'Heart Of Gold' would go on to become Young's career best-selling single and echoes his past folk-rock recordings. Driven by Young's aggressive acoustic guitar playing and a beautiful harmonica melody, 'Heart Of Gold' expresses Young's simple longing for love: "I've been a miner for a heart of gold and and I'm getting old." The only traces of Nashville's influence on the track are Linda Ronstadt's haunting backing vocals and the late introduction of a slide guitar. The lasting appeal of this classic recording is clear in Young's superb vocal, easy to like and impossible not to sing along to.

Similarly, my favourite song on the album, 'The Needle & The Damage Done', harks back to Young's CSNY days. The song is a short slice of folk magic, containing a beautifully melodic picked acoustic guitar intro and an emotion-filled vocal. The song was recorded live in California, though it's impossible to tell until it's over, and tells the story of Neil's experiences with heroin and the lives it has taken.

I caught you knocking at my cellar door/I love you baby, can I have some more?/Oh, the damage done.
I hit the city and I lost my band/I watched the needle take another man/Gone, gone, the damage done.

Opening track 'Out On The Weekend' is a fusion of country and folk, with a slow, drum heavy rhythm and mournful melodies from both harmonica and slide guitar. The acoustic guitar is typically aggressive, despite the slow tempo, echoing the lyrical sentiment of frustration in love.

See the lonely boy/Out on the weekend/Trying to make it pay.
Can't relate to joy/He tries to speak and/Can't begin to say.

Two of the album's ten tracks feature the London Symphony Orchestra. The first is feminists' favourite 'A Man Needs A Maid'. The song caused a huge stir at the time of release to its content which was perceived to be sexist. Young laments his bad luck in love and ponders the thought that men should simply get maids rather than wives, who'll perform the wife's duties while protecting him from the heartbreak he feels is inevitable in relationships. The dynamic is powerful on the chorus, as Nitzsche's sombre piano gives way to dramatic orchestral sweeps.

'There's A Love' makes similarly epic use of the famed orchestra, opening with dramatic string crescendos, before a quieter passage emerges driven by woodwind instruments. The dynamic is once again superb, as is Young's heartfelt vocal.

There's a world you're living in/No one else has your part/All God's children in the wind/Take it in and blow hard

To give a love, you gotta live a love/To live a love, you gotta be part of"

'Old Man' is perhaps the album's second most well-known song, also featuring the vocal skills of Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. A banjo melody in the intro gives way to a similar passage on acoustic guitar, while Young again ponders the feeling of aging without loving.

Old man take a look at my life/I'm a lot like you/I need someone to love me the whole night through.

'Alabama' and 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age)' could easily be mistaken for Crazy Horse songs, as distorted guitar lines and heavy chord stabs litter both tunes. The former is a facetious ode to Alabama, blasting it as an economic drain on "the union" - "Alabama you got the world on your shoulders/That's breaking your back." The latter is a disposable rocker, which I don't see fit to comment on.

The title track is a fast-paced but understated country song, written in the style of an interview as Young pesters a poor girl with a barrage of personal questions. The chorus is pretty, lyrically, with Young promising, "Dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup with the promise of a man."

'Are You Ready For The Country?' is another album highlight which echoes the Eagles, though driven by the bluesy piano of Nitzsche. Though repetitive, it's an enjoyable song to listen to and a welcome break from the album's typically morose lyrics. The song features an infectious chorus, which is repeated ad nauseum.

Are you ready for the Country?/Because it's time to go

Harvest is regarded by Young himself as his finest release; he would comment many years later: "I think Harvest is probably the finest record I've ever made." He makes a strong case.

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user ratings (1128)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 7th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. I've heard this album just several times and it has always left an impression. I have Decade, Live Rust, and Harvest Moon in my collection, as well as a couple of his quirky mid 80's releases. I think I will add this one next

August 8th 2005


I'm also planning on adding this one next.

August 8th 2005


Album Rating: 3.5

I really only checked out Neil Young after I found out that Powderfinger named themselves after one of his songs.

I really like this album. It's nice to listen through all the way through. I'm particularly very fond of 'The Needle & the Damage Done'. Very emotional (And seemingly flawless for a live performance).

I'll check out his other stuff, for sure! :thumb:

November 30th 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

Good review.

I love this particular album. It's very inspiring, even if I prefer the heavy music, this one is still an eye opener. One of his best works.

February 2nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review.

This is a great album to listen to as its very strong all the way through. Ever since I first heard 'The Needle and the Damage Done' I've been a huge fan of Neil, and this is one of his best.

April 5th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

I love this album, if I need to cool down at all I just throw this album on. My Favorite track is probably The Needle and the Damage Done, there's no other insterments or harmony besides vocals and guitar, but its a very powerful 2 minuet song.

June 1st 2006


I dont get why the needle and the damage done is so special. Im not saying it's bad but "Alabama" and "old man" are much better. Still, good review

June 14th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

I think the fact that its powerful because it was written about his former crazyhorse bandmate.

June 14th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Yep. That's why it's powerful. A lot of this album is very moving.

With Alabama, Neil Young won that whole Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd thing, I think.

August 30th 2006


I can't believe that you called Words (Between The Lines Of Age) a "...a disposable rocker, which I don�t see fit to comment on." It's one of my favorites on the album.

Broken Arrow
August 30th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

There's nothing great about Words nothing bad about Words.

February 2nd 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Words is one of the weakest tracks for me. I really like this and I'm glad I got it. Old Man and The Needle and the Damage Done are my favorites.

February 23rd 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

A fuc king classic.

February 23rd 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I find this is a really inconsistent album. The first 4 tracks are all amazing and then it just completely loses steam.

Needle and the Damage Done is also amazing.

November 25th 2009


still love this

Neil Young is the man

July 3rd 2010


This is so good, and the last three tracks are Neil Young classics

August 29th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

Good album.

January 7th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Words is great.

January 13th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Neil Young is the man.

January 13th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Probably should 5 it someday

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