Release date: 14 February 1972
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Out on the Weekend 2. Harvest 3. A Man Needs a Maid 4. Heart of Gold (2/5/72, #1 US, #10 UK, #8 AC, sales: 1.0 m) 5. Are You Ready for the Country? 6. Old Man (4/29/72, #31 US) 7. There’s a World 8. Alabama 9. The Needle and the Damage Done (7/17/93, #75 UK) 10. Words (Between the Lines of Age)
Sales (in millions): 4.3 US, -- UK, 16.1 world (includes US and UK)
Peak: 12 US, 11 UK
Review: Young’s previous two solo efforts, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, mined gritty rock anthems and folky love songs to perfection.” SY He followed that with Harvest, which featured “the solitary troubadour…at his most elegiac.” ZS The overall “sound was Americana…stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed,” RS500 but Young also “employ[ed] a number of jarringly different styles.” AMG “But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: the mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love.” AMG
“His usual dissonant touches, like the otherworldly guitar in Out on the Weekend, are less spooky in this new context.” AZ Songs like “the hypnotic rocker” AZ Words (Between the Lines of Age), with “a little distorted guitar along the way,” AD “predict Tonight’s the Night, Young’s haunted 1975 classic.” AZ
“The singer’s acquired-taste voice comes across smooth and beautiful” AZ in songs like the aforementioned “Out on the Weekend” and “rolling laments like Old Man” SY which “are unusually melodic and accessible.” AMG Nowhere is this more apparent than Heart of Gold, “by far Young’s most commercial-sounding song,” AZ complete with “steel guitars and Linda Ronstadt’s backup vocals.” AZ The latter “helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion.” RS500
On the controversial A Man Needs a Maid, Young “contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help.” AMG On the “country-tinged” AMG Are You Ready for the Country “Young detoured briefly to the Nashville mainstream.” AZ “The harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction” AMG on “the deceptively gentle” AZ The Needle and the Damage Done is “one of the most poignant songs about drug addiction ever recorded.” ZS
In reference to the album’s “simple arrangements, simple songs” AD some “critics accused him of dumbing down at the time.” JI Although Harvest “lacked the through-the-night-until-the-morning-after crush of its predecessors” SY it “can now be seen as simply another facet of Young’s musical personality, representing the acoustic, pastoral idyll that usually preceded another barrage of electric howl.” JI In any event, it was Young’s “most popular album” AMG and sealed his “voice-of-a-generation fate.” SY
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for Harvest
- DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry for Neil Young
- AMG All Music Guide review by William Ruhlmann
- AZ Amazon.com review by Steve Knopper
- AD Adrian Denning
- JI Jim Irvin (editor). (2000). The Mojo Collection: The Greatest Albums of All Time. Mojo Books: Edinburgh, Scotland.
- RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
- SY Stylus Magazine’s Top 101-200 Favourite Albums Ever by Stylus staff (3/22/04).
- TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 133.
- ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 246.