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Harvest
Neil Young

Reprise 2032
Released: February 1972
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 41
Certified Triple Platinum: 10/13/86

Neil YoungWell, Neil Young has finally graced us with a new album and, as was expected, it's a gem. It's been a year and a half since After The Gold Rush, and while Neil's compatriots, CS&N, have been turning out their own solo ventures, Neil Young, again, firmly established his unique musical genius. His haunting tenor, vividly coherent lyrics, seemingly simple music and superb instrumental and vocal support coalesce into a flowing pastiche of musical brilliance.

Neil Young - Harvest
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Young continues to write original and memorable tunes, many of which have an air of familiarity to them; that's due to his atypical distinctive style. As seen on "The Needle And The Damage Done," Young's lyrics are terse and full of lucid observations. The latter song is a strong anti-hard drug message, wrapped up in a lilting, melodic musical package. The production work, shared by Neil Young, Elliot Mazer, Jack Nitzsche and Henry Lewy, is impeccable. Some of the recording was done in Nashville, with backing provided by the Stray Gators (and top Nashville session men Ben Keith, Kenny Buttrey and Tim Drummond along with Mr. Nitzsche). Two of the tunes, "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's A World," were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, and to the credit of Nitzsche, the orchestra is tastefully employed. As an added bonus, there is background and vocal harmonies from James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby.

- Buffalo Evans, Words & Music, 6/72.

Bonus Reviews!

Harvest has been the most anxiously awaited album of the year and it is indeed an admirable showcase for the genius of Mr. Neil Young. His melodies are hypnotically insistent, framed in lyrics that have a strange drifting quality. He is joined by CS&N, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and backed by the Stray Gators. "Old Man," "Alabama," and "Out on the Weekend" seem instant successes. "Heart of Gold" is, of course, included.

- Billboard, 1972.

Like all his albums, Neil Young's Harvest is beautiful and difficult. Difficult because, while Neil's mournful songs are for the most part simple and affecting, they are often rich in poetic suggestion and melodic charm. This disc is more polished than After the Gold Rush, but it may not have quite the impact: Except for a few tunes, such as "Heart of Gold," the title song and "Old Man," there's a bit too much stress on gimmickry (two unfortunate cuts with the London Symphony Orchestra) and significance ("Words"). Crosby, Stills and Nash appear from time to time, as do James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, so it's an all-star cast, including Young's fine band. Neil's artless minor-key musings have lost none of their quirky power.

- Playboy, 7/72.

For those who haven't gotten into Neil Young yet, this album will help you on your way. You've all heard "Heart of Gold," the single from Harvest, so you know how good it is but the album as whole is much better.

Neil has given us this album with a little help from his friends. Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor for example provide great backing vocals on "Heart of Gold." And for all of us who like the idea of having the next best thing to a CSN&Y album, Stills, Nash and Crosby are also on hand, not to mention the London Philharmonic for two superb tracks -- "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's A World."

In my opinion the best songs on the album are the above mentioned, "Harvest," "Old Man," "Alabama," and "Words." Oh I forgot "Are You Ready" and "The Needle."

Is that the entire album? Coincidence? Not with Neil Young, it isn't. It's a habit.

- Tommy Nichols, Hit Parader, 9/72.

Anticipation and mindless instant acceptance made for critical overreaction when this came out, but it stands as proof that the genteel Young has his charms, just like the sloppy one. Rhythmically it's a little wooden, and Young is guilty of self-imitation on "Alabama" and pomposity on the unbearable London Symphony Orchestra opus "There's a World." But those two excepted, even the slightest songs here are gratifying musically, and two of them are major indeed -- "The Needle and the Damage Done" and the much-maligned (by feminists as well as those critics of the London Symphony Orchestra) "A Man Needs a Maid." B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Young's most popular and musically successful album after After the Goldrush turns up in fine form and is a significant sonic improvement over the LP.

In addition to the studio tracks, recorded with notables like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and members of the CSN&Y crew, there is a live track, "The Needle and the Damage Done," and two heavyweight orchestrated tracks recorded in London. The live recording, just Young and acoustic guitar, is superbly clean, though the applause cuts quickly and disturbingly into the next track.

Jack Nitzche's productions on the tracks recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra are powerfully conveyed with added weight and impact. Surprisingly, it is the studio tracks that sound a little dated, with a fatter, slower bass and a somewhat muffled and boxy quality.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

Uneven, yes, perhaps due to the overambitiousness of the orchestral pieces, but this album, Young's biggest seller, still contains "Heart of Gold," the rocker "Alabama," and such telling ballads as "Old Man." * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
After The Gold Rush

Album Review:
On the Beach

Album Review:
Tonight's the Night

Album Review:
Comes a Time

Album Review:
Rust Never Sleeps

Album Review:
Living With War

Album Review:
Archives Vol. 1: 1963-1972

Album Review:
A Treasure

Album Review:
Storytone

Single Review:
"Heart of Gold"

DVD Review:
Rust Never Sleeps

Book Review:
Special Deluxe: A Memoir
of Life & Cars

Neil Young:
In His Own Words

Neil Young Lyrics

Neil Young Videos

Neil Young Mugshots

Harvest is Neil Young's most popular album for good reason, though it's docked one star for the presence of two horribly overwrought orchestral numbers. The rest is pure gold. * * * *

- Alan Paul, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The solitary troubadour is at his most elegiac on his only No. 1 album, and it includes his only No. 1 hit, "Heart of Gold," as well as "The Needle and the Damage Done," one of the most poignant songs about drug addiction ever recorded. Along with David Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, James Taylor and the London Symphony Orchestra, Neil's haunting voice rocks this sublime collection of country-tinged rock that feels like a visit from an old friend every time you put it on. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Harvest yielded Young's only Number One hit, "Heart of Gold," and helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion -- both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt sing on the album. Along with Young, they were in Nashville to appear on Johnny Cash's variety show the week that Harvest was cut with an odd group of accomplished session players that included bassist Tim Drummond, who had played with James Brown. The sound was Americana -- steel guitar, slide guitar, banjo -- stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed. The standout tracks include "Old Man" and "The Needle and the Damage Done."

Harvest was chosen as the 78th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Coming two years after the demise of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Harvest is possibly the guitarist's most popular solo work. Recorded, among other locations, at the Quadrafonic Sound Studio, Tennessee, the album topped both the US and UK charts on its release. Described as a melancholic work, Harvest's songs are riven with sadness and an air of uncertainty, whether they cover the quest for love and a relationship, as in "A Man Needs A Maid," or witnessing the death of so many friends in "Needle And The Damage Done." There is also something almost obscenely simple about the title track, with its tale of unrequited -- and unwanted -- love set against a lilting, see-sawing country rhythm and plaintive steel pedal guitar.

Two songs, "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's A World," were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in the rather modest surroundings of Barking Town Hall, in London's East End. Young apparently recorded the album in a full-length back brace, and said of the album's prominent track, "Heart Of Gold" (which features James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals) that travelling that road "became a bore" and sent him heading "for the ditch."

Harvest was chose as the 78th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in 2003.

As of 2004, Harvest was the #60 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

An album that perfectly evoked both the dying optimism of San Francisco's counterculture movement and the burgeoning cynicism of the Watergate generation, Harvest stands as a commercial pinnacle of the West Coast country-rock scene, a U.S. and UK No. 1. Yet its relevance was almost pre-empted by both The Byrds and The Buffalo Springfield.

Harvest, though, undoubtedly augured Young's 1970s creative peak, utilising harmonies by Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor to strike commercial paydirt on the hit single "Heart Of Gold." The song's success would daunt Young for the next three decades, and he has purposely omitted it from live sets since. "This song put me in the middle of the road," he wrote. "Traveling there soon became a bore and I headed for the ditch."

That song aside, Harvest contains some of the most arresting imagery of Young's career to date, from the slow-burning scorn of "Alabama," an acerbic denunciation of corruption in America's Southern beltway, to the haunting and personal "The Needle And The Damage Done," and the touching if sentimental "Old Man," written as a homage to the caretaker of Young's ranch. Harvest often threatens to descend into country mawkishness, but ultimately shines with its creator's songwriting strengths.

Unsurprisingly, Young would soon retreat from the runaway success of this album. And the majority of his Seventies work would veer toward a more insidious realization of America via explorations in the realm of punk and the blues. Harvest, though, stands as the coming-of-age of the Baby Boomer generation.

- Burhan Wazir, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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