Neil Young

Harvest

Reprise

Dec 18, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Perhaps Neil Young's most famous album, 1972's Harvest contains songs that belong in any time capsule of rock 'n' roll, the kinds of songs that can be found in jukeboxes in seedy bars as well as on iPods of hipster kids and the record collections of their parents. It features the only number one hit of Young's career, "Heart of Gold." Even for an artist who has always been himself, and doesn't play a role like Bob Dylan or David Bowie, Harvest is an extraordinarily personal record.

It's not simply the stripped-down performances, it's how stripped-bare the lyrics are. Such simple laments as, "A man needs a maid," and "The woman I'm thinking of/she loved me all up/but I'm so down today," don't feel like song lyrics, they sound like feelings, like pages from a journal.

Even a song like "Old Man," which one has heard hundreds of times without seeking it out, still has the power to stop one dead in their tracks. The song is a simple beauty that then blossoms with a sudden banjo, a slide guitar, and then Young stops holding back, and practically yells the chorus, "Old man/take a look at my life/I'm a lot like you/I need someone to love me/the whole day through." The timing of everything, the way one new sound signals another and another, is a vastly underrated aspect of Young's work.

"The Needle and the Damage Done," written about Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten's heroin use, is the finest song written about the trials and perils of drug use. Young doesn't vilify; he doesn't diminish; he understands that addiction comes in all forms, "A little part of it in everyone."

"The Needle and the Damage Done," like much of Harvest, has the immediacy of honesty. The emotion lies so close to the surface, but the musicianship and the lyrics deserve repeated listens. Harvest fully deserves its stature, and more. This reissue, masterfully remixed, imparts a great gift: a reason to listen to songs that have become so familiar as if for the first time. (www.neilyoung.com)

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