Friday, September 30, 2011

Neil Young-Harvest (JHO Hall Of Fame)

I have a conversation with myself on the way to work Wednesday and decide to induct 1972's "Harvest" into my JHO Hall Of Fame. Sometimes, a conversation with yourself is all it takes....

("Out On The Weekend" comes on the IPOD...I turn it up as the previous Go! Team song would break the speakers if played too loud. "Out On The Weekend" serves as the perfect companion for the cooler, rainy Indiana weather that has settled into late September in the Hoosier state....I think about the album and a mood settles in......)

Pessimistic Side: Wow! I forgot how much I loved "Out On The Weekend". This was one of those albums my dad had and would let me listen to as a kid and I remember the rustic cover and the doorknob with a reflection of a skinny, younger Young's reflection through it in the inner sleeve. That country rock beat is great. I love singing the line "She's so fine she's in my mind, I hear her calling....See the lonely boy out on the weekend..."

Optimistic Side: It really is a fantastic starter! You should consider putting it in your JHO Hall Of Fame. 

Pessimistic Side: It's funny, Bobby C wished me a happy birthday on the old rounds of Facebook the other day and told me to listen to Neil Young. It's been a while since I've sat down with one of his 70's classics. But "Harvest"? I love and know every song...but it's one of Neil's least favorites. I'd feel like I was mailing it in putting in "Harvest". 

Optimistic Side: Well, why don't you just listen to the rest of the album again. There you go. tell your car to play album "Harvest".

PS: Well, O.K. Oh, "Harvest". What a tongue and cheek crooner. That acoustic guitar meets piano in the middle part is so worthy of a guitar solo, but there is no reason for it. It's lazy and makes me think of a big red October moon on a clear night sure to come soon.

OS: It's a fantastic slice of country rock. One Young was thought of to release more of throughout the seventies, but he wisely decided not to follow that blueprint. Then the third song here... "A Man Needs A Maid". Remember thinking as a kid how great that piano meets orchestra section was?

PS: Yeah, but I've wrestled back and forth with the message of that song through the years. It seems so out of place.

OS: Fair play, but Young just sounds so mournful through the song. Listen to him wax: "I was watching a movie with a friend, I fell in love with the actress, she was playing a part I could understand..." Then he sadly closes with "When will I see you again?"

PS: Alright, there is a heavy dose of emotion there. Here comes the most well known song of the batch. "Heart Of Gold" is everything I always wanted in my country rock song and more. The whole "And I'm getting old" part has always hit a note with me.

OS: And how about that harmonica part?

PS: Awesome. I've always wanted to go to Redwood. This is a song I read once that Young despises. Probably because of the humongous popularity it encompassed.

OS: Yeah, but the chorus at the end includes Linda Rondstadt and James Taylor. It could be the best three part harmony of all time. I bet Young secretly loves that song still.

PS: Probably. Ah yes, "Are You Ready For The Country". True story? I wasn't aware that Waylon Jennings covered "Are You Ready For The Country?" until my sister in law's father blasted that version before a NASCAR race several years. I was like "That's an old Neil Young favorite of mine from "Harvest".

OS: It's more country than rock, Waylon's version is good as well.

PS: "Old Man". God, I loved that song as a kid. The banjo, the chorus, it almost makes me weep if the mood is right.

OS: How about when you saw Young at Farm Aid in 2005 and Willie Nelson joined him for this one.

PS: Yes! Willie came into play right when the banjo picked up before the chorus. As a kid, I thought 24 would be an old man. Now I'm 38. God, what happens when I become the old man sung about by Neil in this song....or am I already there? He was only in his mid-20's when he released "Harvest".

OS: It's a timeless classic. Here's some more orchestration for you. "There's A World" has a great orchestra backing the song from triangles to strings to a tympani.

PS: Yeah, but it's a bit more overblown than "A Man Needs A Maid". I always found it odd on "Harvest", but it shows that Young was willing to branch into different genres...which he continued to do the rest of his career.

OS: Well...just remember this. I hope Neil Young remembers: A southern man don't need him around!

PS: Ha! Right! For the longest time I thought that Skynyrd was referring to "Southern Man" but it makes more sense that it was his scathing attack on "Alabama". "Banjos playing through the broken glass" and "See the old folks in their white robes". What a negative view of the Dixie state! Especially, "You've got the rest of the union to help you along...."

OS: It is a pessimistic look on Alabama in general, but what a great lead guitar part and chorus. If people were open enough to see their faults, Young's attack may have changed some views since 1972...but sadly....

PS: "The Needle And The Damage Done". Didn't know it was about heroin at the age of seven.

OS: It's got to be there at number one or two for songs about the drug with the Velvet Underground's 1967 opus. Such a straightforward look at the song. Mournful, honest, a winner in every way.....

PS: "I've seen the needle and the damage done...but every junkie's like a setting sun." Two minutes of Young a guitar, and then an audience erupts at the end straight into the finale "Words (Between The Lines Of Age)"

OS: What a great closer. How about when the whole chorus "Singing words, words, between the lines of age" comes in. And then the song shifts gears back again to the beginning part. And that slide guitar! Melancholy country rock at its finest. Almost a grungy type feel to it.

PS: As a kid, I never had the attention span to make it through the closer. But now, I wish the six minute ender would never commence.

OS: So, are you satisfied enough to put in "Harvest" into your Hall Of Fame?

Photo Courtesy:
PS: I don't know. The big strike, like I said before, is Neil doesn't like it. How can I include an album its creator has never been fond of. Fans like myself adore it. I never realized my own back story with it. Watching the Reprise brown label spin as I stared at the back cover with the whole Stray Gator outfit sitting with Young in a studio....that brings back memories. Forgot Crazy Horse wasn't present yet. And what about "After The Gold Rush"? Or "Tonight's The Night"? Or "Rust Never Sleeps" I may not have room for those other beloved albums. Although I do have a space in my heart for every song on "Harvest" I can't say that with those three other albums....

OS: Tackle that issue when the time comes. Just put in "Harvest" now. Wrestle with the fact you probably won't have all four classics in your Hall Of Fame since you're capping it at 100.

PS: Alright, it's settled. "Harvest" is in. Hardcore fans can call me a not pure fan. I'm not interested in that anyways.

OS: Good deal. Well it was fun talking to myself for 37 minutes. Let's try not to do this again sometime soon. It's a bit creepy.

PS: I agree. I may talk to you again with a Beatles, Costello, or Bowie album sometime in the future though.

OS: Talk to ya then....

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