The first album we look at from 1972 also happens to be the best selling album of 1972, the country rock classic “Harvest” by Neil Young. I have always considered Neil Young’s music to be so rich with Americana, probably due to all of his work with Farm Aid, when in fact, as many of you know, Mr. Young was raised in Canada. For what it is worth, he has lived most of his adult life in California, and last year officially became a dual citizen. Anyhow, “Harvest” is a great album with known and unknown classics, and is rated as the #72 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Two of my favorite Neil Young songs of all are the centerpieces of this album. “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man” are true classics and the side of Neil Young I appreciate the most. While we all know Neil is fully capable of rocking with the free world (not on this album, to be clear), I most favor the ballads, and those two are probably his very best. I always enjoy the additional research and insight that comes as I read up on each album prior to writing my blog, and today I learned that the beautiful banjo on “Old Man” is played by none other than James Taylor. The female backing vocals on “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold”? The one and only Linda Rondstadt. Not surprisingly, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash all find their way on to the album as well.
Another eye-opener for me was the song “Alabama”. I knew about the first shot fired with the song “Southern Man”, but I realized that Neil actually took another aggressive hit at the Deep South with this song, doubly motivating Lynyrd Skynyrd to respond. This was one is equally as harsh, and one that Young ultimately regretted for its stereotyping and generalizations. If nothing else, it made for a great lyrical comeback, one he felt was fairly deserved.
The extremely chill “Out On the Weekend” opens the album, followed by the serenade of the title track “Harvest”. Again, both of these are Neil at his melancholy best, as is “The Needle and the Damage Done”, a sad but accurate testament to the number of great musicians lost or missing in part due to heroin addiction. Mixed with social sentiment and happy country warmth, it is easy to see why this album was a big success and a favorite of many, as it is for me.