Friday, January 20, 2006

Conflicting thoughts on HARVEST

HARVEST (1972) is an all-time Neil classic, correct? I always thought so. Lord knows, it's spawned countless pale imitations by lesser talents. But, you can't hold that against Neil, can you? I certainly don't.

Check out this link for the original Rolling Stone magazine review from March 1972, which is quite negative. Again, RS is not the divine word of a higher power. I just think it's interesting to read contrary opinions...and then subject them to scorn and ridicule.

"On the basis of the vast inferiority relative
to his altogether spectacular Everybody Knows This Is can only be concluded that Neil Young is not one of those folks whom superstardom becomes artistically."

Interesting. And, on the basis of the vast inferiority of the orange relative to the apple...blah blah blah. This guy was already put off by Neil's ever-changing musical styles, and it was only 1972!!!
"Witness, in fact, that he's all but abdicated his position as an authoritative rock-and-roller for the stereotypical laid-back country-comforted troubadour role, seldom playing electric guitar at all any more..."

Wow. I'm not sure I've ever heard an artist accused of the sin of choosing an acoustic guitar over an electric guitar for a certain selection of songs. Rumour has it that the reviewer was later given an opportunity to invest in MTV's Unplugged, but declined on similar grounds.

"Neil's Nashville backing band, the Stray Gators, pale miserably in comparison to the memory of Crazy Horse, of whose style they do a flaccid imitation on such tracks as 'Out On The Weekend,' 'Harvest,' and 'Heart of Gold.'"

OK, now I'm completely convinced that this guy didn't know sh-t about Neil Young. How could anyone be so stupid as to misconstrue the songs listed above as flaccid imitations of Crazy Horse? I'm afraid I have to return to the apple/orange analogy. Is the orange a flaccid imitation of the apple? Oh, wait, maybe the two are just different. (Some go so far as to say the two are different by design!)

"'The Needle And The Damage Done,' is glib, even cute, and displays little real commitment to its subject"

Now, the gloves are off. As I stated in my LIVE RUST post, "If you don't like this song, there is something horribly, awfully wrong with you." But, why would I fight this battle? I'll let the lyrics stand on their own:

I caught you knockin'
at my cellar door
I love you, baby,
can I have some more
Ooh, ooh, the damage done.

I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.

I sing the song
because I love the man
I know that some
of you don't understand
to keep from running out.

I've seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie's
like a settin' sun.

What's "glib, even cute" about that? Neil is a guy who lost friends and bandmates to drugs, then wrote about it...glib bastard. I must refer the reviewer to "Old Man" (one of the classic songs from HARVEST), "Doesn't mean that much to me to mean that much to you."



Blogger Macky OlĂ© said...

Not to mention that Harvest isn't really that acoustic of an album. Both "Words" and "Alabama" were arguably some of his chunkiest Neil tunes to that point.

I can see how the reviewer might pin Neil for jumping on the singer-songwriter wagon. Afterall, 1972 was the year that artists like James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell were really hitting their prime.

Plus, Harvest is quite possibly Neil's least-cohesive album from a production standpoint. You have the aforementioned chunky rockers, the psuedo-country of tracks like "Are you ready for the country" and "Out on the Weekend," and then you have tracks like "Man needs a maid" and "There's a world" with that damn orchestra. Sure, ALL the songs are great, but I can understand why a critic would pan this album at the time of release.

3:11 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

I agree that HARVEST as an album is basically a collection of songs, at a time when the "concept album" was definitely king, especially in the minds of rock critics.

As far as the "singer-songwriter" criticism goes, nobody had a problem with Neil singing his songs alone at a piano (e.g., "After the Gold Rush"), even though Elton John was just hitting his prime. So, I don't see how anyone can slam Neil for the undisputed fact that James Taylor was a p-ssy, even if JT does provide some backing vocals on "Heart of Gold".

I understand that 33+ years later there is a lot of perspective that the guy didn't have at the time he wrote the review. However, he also just seems more than a bit full of sh-t in my opinion.

And, I didn't even call out the portion of the review where he claims that "Alabama" aspires to be an extension of "Southern Man", but fails because Neil doesn't provide a lyrical equivalent to the "bull whips cracking" line and the guitar solos aren't as stinging. Again with the apples/oranges thing!!! As you already noted, "Alabama" is definitely chunky-Neil, and musically is more akin to a song like "Ohio". But, since both songs disparage the backwards/racist elements of the South, apparently he thinks they should also be musical and lyrical clones. I disagree. To me, "Southern Man" is more outraged, and "Alabama" is more condescending, and almost dismissive. I mean, "...Alabama/You got the rest of the Union/To help you along/What's going wrong?" That's so condescending it's almost delicious!!!

3:51 PM, January 20, 2006  

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