Neil Young News
Subject: HARVEST - New Musical Express, 2/12/1972
Neil Young's Harvest - Exclusive track-by-track review by Rob Drysdale
After a considerable wait this month sees the release of Neil Young's fourth album. There was a problem of how to treat the songs on it, wether to keep to the simple living-room recordings of most of 'After The Goldrush' or to return to the group feel of the Neil Young and Crazy Horse album.
After taping a Johnny Cash T.V. show in Nashville, Neil Young and his friend Jack Nitzche escaped the pressure of the T.V. studios with a late-night jam with some local musicians: Ben Keith (steel guitar), Kenny Buttrey (drums), Tim Drummond (bass), Neil on guitar and Nitzche on piano. They hit it off immediately and played for hours, and the problem of 'Harvest' was solved when this temporary group - the Stray Gators - came into being.
There has always been a strong country influence to precious Neil Young albums, but this was the first time that actual country musicians or steel guitar had been used. The tracks are:
Out On The Weekend (4.35): An introduction of Dylanesque harmonica over a slow but very definite beat sets a sad tone for the disillusionment of the lyric: "Think I'll pack it in and buy a pick up/take it down to L.A."
Neil Young's voice could never be described as being 'good' in any technical sense but his voice does have an identity. There is an intensity in his vocals which demands that you not only listen to but feel them.
This voice is underlined by his pained lyrics - he is the archetypical loner. "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." Effective steel guitar completes the mood.
Harvest (3.03): This has a lazy country feel and is sung to a girl who has just woken. "Did she wake you up/to tell you that/it was only a change of plan?" Typical is the withdrawal from becoming too involved: "Well I see you give more than I can take/well I only harvest some."
A Man Needs A Maid (4.00): This is the first of two tracks featuring the London Symphony Orchestra, recorded in London last year. Lonely voice and piano take on the thoughtful lyric: "My life is changing in so many ways/I don't know who to trust anymore." This builds to a chorus where the full orchestra is used to great effect.
The lyrics imply non-involvement: "Just someone to keep my house clean/fix my meals and go away." Yet he ends almost in despair with the truth: "When will I see you again?"
Heart Of Gold (3.05): Young's current single ('B' side "Sugar Mountain" is not available on any album). Again harmonica and an effective simple backing works well with the lyric of non-fulfilment. "I've been searching for a heart of gold/and I'm getting o ld." James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, who also were at the Nashville studios, join in on the final chorus.
Are You Ready For The Country (3.21): Sounds like, and could well, be a live jam among friends. Jack Nitzche switches to slide guitar for this near-version of "Rollin' And Tumblin." The familiar tune is livened up somewhat and freshened by Young's superb 'non-lyrics': "Slippin' and a-slidin'/and playing dominoes/leftin' and then rightin'/it's not a crime you know." David Crosby and Graham Nash supply the backing vocals on the chorus.
Side Two opens with:
Old Man (3.22): One of the best produced tracks, with brilliant banjo and steel guitar. The song was inspired by an old man who lives on Young's ranch: "Old man look at my life/I'm a lot like you were." Familiar themes of loneliness and lost love are also present: "Live alone in a paradise that makes me think of two" recalled with a certain pain "love lost/such a cost/give me things that don't get lost." Yet he is still searching for a heart of gold: "I need someone to love me the whole day through/Oh one look in my eyes and you can tell that's true." James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt again provide backing vocals.
There's A World (3.00): The second London Symphony Orchestra track and a very dramatic production. Harp, strings, tympani are all used, and I can't help feeling that the end result is a little overdone. The song itself explains the position of the individ ual: "There's a world you're living in/no one else has your part." The overall feel is that of a film, and so perhaps this previews the style of the forthcoming soundtrack album "Journey Through The Past."
Alabama (4.02): The return of electric Neil Young, featuring the familiar sounding electric guitar and some characteristic chord sequences. Taken at an even tempo, the song personifies the Southern State: "Alabama/you've got the weight on your shoulders/t hat's breaking your back." With backing vocals by David Crosby and Stephen Stills, this is one of the strongest numbers. Where "Southern Man" on the "Goldrush" album was a song of anger at the Southern States, the feel of "Alabama" is more of dimly understood tragedy: "I'm from a new land/I come to you and/see all this ruin/what are you doing/Alabama/you've got the rest of the Union to help you along/what's going wrong?"
The Needle And The Damage Done (2.00): Recorded live at the Royce Hall, UCLA, and accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, this is a sad painful reflection on hard-drug taking. These emotions, his voice and lyrics convey only too well: "I hit the city and I lost my band/I watch the needle take another man." Obviously it is a subject which is close to him. "I sing the song because I love the man/I know that some of you don't understand." The final line of the song sums up the situation in tragic imagery. " Every junkie's like a setting sun."
Words (Between The Lines Of Age) (6.42): Young again on lead electric guitar, but unfortunately there are not really any of those piercing solos along the lines of "Cowgirl In The Sand" - merely hints of them, which is disappointing since there is certain ly room for one.
However, the song itself is definitely up to-standard with a lyric which can only be described by the title - Words: "Living in castles a bit at a time/the king started laughing and talking in rhyme." Friends Stephen Stills and Graham Nash help out on bac king vocals.
The album was produced in Nashville by Elliot Mazer and Neil Young and in London by Jack Nitzche. Was it worth the wait? I think You'll find it worthwhile.
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