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“Harvest” at 45

Neil Young released his fourth album, “Harvest”, 45 years ago this week on February 1st, 1972.  It has become his most popular album and was the top-selling album in the US in 1972.  The album reached #1 on the US and UK charts, with two hit singles in the US, “Heart Of Gold” (#1) and “Old Man” (#31).  I think it’s a good album, but I wouldn’t say it is Young’s best.                                                                                                                                The album features guest appearances by David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash on vocals, along with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor.  Taylor also added the banjo guitar (a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar) on “Old Man”.  It was recorded in Nashville, London, New York,  and at Young’s barn on his ranch in California.  One song, “The Needle and the Damage Done” was recorded at a live concert at UCLA.  Young’s backing band for much of the album, drummer Kenny Buttrey, bassist Tim Drummond (who supposedly was found by producer Elliot Mazer in Nashville “just walking down the street”) and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith.  Keith’s work shines throughout the album.                                                                                                                             Young was said to be taken aback by the album’s success, and his famous quote is that the record  “put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.”   Throughout his career, Young has continued to reinvent himself, never getting too comfortable with one style of music.   “Harvest” proved to be the one point in his life that his music struck a chord with the largest audience.   The album was not loved by the critics, and the Montreal Gazette called it “embarrassing” in places.  The same reviewer also thought that “Are You Ready For The Country” was the best track on the album, so we can take his review with a grain of salt.  Personally, I would say that is the worst track on the album.  In retrospect, reviews have been kinder, with Rolling Stone ranking the album in 2003 as as the 78th greatest album of all time.                                    



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