Album Review: Neil Young – Harvest (1972 LP)

Today is Thanksgiving Day up here in the Great White North. We celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday in October, roughly 6 weeks earlier than our neighbours to the south due to our colder climate. Thanksgiving has been celebrated in Canada since 1879, and even though it’s a National holiday, many people still have to work it, often receiving larger compensation for doing so. Basically Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for a good harvest. I figured Harvest was as good an album as any to celebrate the day.

Out On The Weekend – Neil Young named his backing band for this album The Stray Gators (Ben Keith – steel guitar, Kenny Buttrey – drums, Tim Drummond – bass, Jack Nitzsche – piano & slide guitar, John Harris – piano on the song Harvest). They do a great job of starting this song off before Neil joins in with harmonica and vocals. The drums and bass especially have a hypnotic, driving beat. Simple but effective. The mouth organ sounds awesome and the steel guitar sounds sort of haunting and spooky. Neil’s vocals are some of his best. A really good lead off song.

Harvest – Today I give thanks to Neil Young and this album. It really is a harvest of bounties for the ears.

A Man Needs A Maid – Some may feel the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra is a weird addition on this album. I personally like it. The change of pace is nice. It’s kind of like hearing Uncle Neil and John Williams performing on the same album. That surely can’t be bad.

Heart Of Gold – Neil Young was performing on The Johnny Cash Show. Also performing that night were James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Neil asked them to help him on this album and this song is one they sang background vocals on. The Stray Gators lay down the beat, the aforementioned superstar background singers back Neil up, and Neil delivers amazing vocals, guitar and harmonica work. Possibly as close to a perfect song as there ever was.

Are You Ready For The Country – Speaking of Superstar backgound vocalists, this one features David Crosby and Graham Nash. We all know how awesome CSNY is. This one is pretty awesome as well.

Time to flip the big slab of black wax over and see how side 2 sounds.

Old Man – More James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. More great guitar work. More amazing backing band rhythm. More near perfect song sounds.

There’s A World – The London Symphony Orchestra is back on this one. It (and A Man Needs A Maid) was arranged by Jack Nitzsche. If he was good enough to invent the Wall Of Sound with Phil Spector and be a part of the Wrecking Crew, then he is good enough to arrange a few songs here. It has a very soundtrack-like feel to it. I mean that in a very good way. Although shortly after this album Jack began to suffer from depression and often fought with the rest of the band, he does an awesome job here.

Alabama – I can imagine the record execs not wanting to alienate fans from an entire state by recording this song, I can also imagine Neil not giving a rat’s ass. Sometimes it’s best to admit you did a people wrong, apologize, and promise to do better, and never do it again.

The Needle And The Damage Done – Drugs seem to go hand in hand with rock and roll, but heroin in particular was really taking it’s toll on musicians in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Neil’s bandmate in Crazy Horse, Neil Whitten was part of the inspiration for the song. Unfortunately Whitten did not take heed of the lyrics of this song and died 9 months after the albums release. This song is a live version with Neil playing a concert at Royce Hall-UCLA(Los Angeles) in 1971 with an acoustic guitar.

Words/(Between The Lines Of Age) – The editing between the last song and this is a little awkward. Hard to know where one stops and the other begins. Other than that it’s a pretty damn fine song. This time Steven Stills helps Graham Nash out on background vocals. The Stray Gators and NSY as it were. That sounds like a great combo to me. Neil’s guitar work especially is a great way to close out this album. A really underrated song that never gets radio play. Too bad.

This album has twice been voted to being the 2nd best Canadian album of all time. I would concur that it is probably one of the best.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Even if you don’t celebrate it I want to give you thanks for reading my blog. Cheers.


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