Thursday, July 26, 2007

No. 78: Harvest

Band: Neil Young
Album: Harvest
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Harvest" is probably Young's best album. It's certainly his most well-known and had his first big hit in "Heart Of Gold." Poignant songs like "The Needle And The Damage Done" and "Old Man" show Young's ability to emote in his cry/whine, while his use of the London Symphony Orchestra peppers "There's A World" and the probably sexist "A Man Needs A Maid."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's a better album than "After The Gold Rush," which is before "Harvest" on the list.
Best song: "Old Man" is wonderful. "Heart Of Gold" is great. Basically, the whole album is wonderful.
Worst song: "A Man Needs A Maid" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely. It's a favorite of mine.

Neil Young hurt his back in 1971, so he wasn't able to play electric guitar as he couldn't stand up for long periods of time. So, he decided to write and record songs on his acoustic guitar. The result? "Harvest."

"Harvest" takes country influences and soft-rocks them up in a way that's wonderfully palpable. Like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, Young's whispery voice and acoustic work makes the country twang go down a little easier for me. "Out On the Weekend" opens the record in this fashion, featuring James Taylor on the banjo. "Are You Ready For The Country" takes early rock and roll honky tonk and combines it with the folk rock Young knows so well.

Lyrically, Young is more mature on "Harvest." Despite his thematic plagiarism on his response to Skynyrd in "Alabama," Young is more measured than in "Southern Man." "The Needle And The Damage Done" -- a song about the overdose and death of Young roadie Bruce Berry -- is reserved and mourning, while "Words (Between The Lines Of Ages)" is a pretty little metaphor storyline.

Young himself isn't the biggest "Heart of Gold" fan (he's called it "middle of the road"), but that doesn't take away from what is a great song. A number one single, "Heart of Gold" paved the way for much of the soft rock in the '70s. It'd be easy to hold that against the song, but it's still a fantastic number that relies on a pounding acoustic guitar riff and some interesting slide guitar.

"Harvest" is Neil Young's best work. It has a collection of near-flawless bouncing from country to rock to symphonic rock, all mixed with a heavy dash of Young's Canadian folk tendencies.

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