f-tunes: Neil Young: Harvest

Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 6:12 pm ET

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Harvest, 1972

Harvest gets the honor of being the first inductee into Frumpzilla’s F-Tunes, our little archive of essential listening.  Why?  Well, for one the album artwork coordinates well with the rest of the site, and that’s key.  It also happens to be one of the greatest albums of all-time, ever, and I just happened to be listening to it recently.  So, despite its age, it’s fresh in my mind, and that helps a bit too…

As far as folk/country rock goes, though I really hate to use that term, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Complete with guest appearances from Stephen Stills, David Crosby, James Taylor, and Linda Rondstadt, Harvest was arguably the biggest album of 1972, topping the Billboard charts and yielding two hit singles: “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold”, the latter being Young’s only #1 and his highest selling single to date.  The commercial success probably hampered Harvest’s critical reception in some circles at the time, and perhaps still, but I’ve never been one to subscribe to the theory that commerical/mass appeal necessarily indicates lack of artistic depth or relevance.  Especially not here.

Harvest has the relatively unique feel of being meticulously planned and calcuated from a production standpoint, yet full of raw, spontaneous energy and emotion.  With song structures highlighting the redily forgotten fact that brilliance is often found in simplicity, perhaps most notably on the title track, every note seems to fall into its predetermined place; At the same time, you still get the feeling that  Young and the Stray Gators (Young’s backing band for most of this album) are simply showcasing a mostly acoustic set at your local independent venue. 

There are some exceptions to this of course.  I could do without the orchestral arrangements of “There’s a World”, the low point of the album for me, though I don’t mind, and actually enjoy, such theatrics on Young’s ode to the Feminist Movement, “A Man Needs A Maid”. 

Southern apologists, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, will just have to get over “Alabama” which, despite basically being a subtle reworking of “Southern Man”, stands out as one of only two straight-up rockers on the album.  The other being “Words (Between the Lines of Age)”, the album’s closer and one of my all time favorites.

You’ll typically find Harvest nestled somewhere in the bottom half of the top 100 of those now ubiqutious “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists.  I agree with that assessment.  You’ll also typically find it at least a few spots behind another Young classic, 1970’s After the Goldrush.  That, I couldn’t disagree with more.  Young once told England’s New Musical Express:  “I think Harvest is probably the finest record I’ve made.”  We’ll take his word for it.

Tracklisting

1. Out On The Weekend
2. Harvest
3. A Man Needs A Maid
4. Heart of Gold
5. Are You Ready For The Country?
6. Old Man
7. There’s A World
8. Alabama
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Words (Between The Lines Of Age)

Frumpzilla’s F-Tunes Ratings

Saturation: 9.0
Sonic Upholstery: 9.25
Impact & Influence: 9.5
Replay Value: Very High

Overall: 9.25 (Essential)

 

Neil Young - Harvest

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