Friday, June 21, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: A Retrospective Look Back At Neil Young's "Harvest", Part 2

Cover of "Neil Young - Heart of Gold"
Neil Young - Heart of Gold
by Garrett Sawyer

It's not always easy being Neil Young. You release a record as good as "Harvest" it gets lukewarm reviews. Continuing with the songs in order ...

Heart of Gold

Neil Young's only solo #1 hit. Recording it was almost serendipitous.

James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt just happened to be in Nashville, where Young recorded the album, to appear on The Johnny Cash Show.

Ronstadt recalled that when they sang their part at the end of the song that she had to get up on her knees to be at the same height as the tall, lanky Taylor.

At one point, Young handed Taylor a banjo to play. Unfortunately, it was the first time Taylor had ever held one.

Taylor and Ronstadt sang all night, finishing at dawn. The drummer on the song, Kenny Buttery, didn't particularly like the way Young arranged songs, saying "He hires some of the best musicians in the world and has them play as stupid as they possibly can." Maybe, but it's hard to argue with the result.

Not everybody loved this song, however. Thirteen years after "Heart of Gold" topped the charts no less than Bob Dylan himself in an interview with Spin Magazine said that he considered the song a rip-off of his own sound, how he hated the song every time it came on the radio.

Although he liked Neil Young, Dylan claimed, "... that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me ... it seemed that someone else had taken my thing and run away with it."

Are you ready for the country

A quirky little quasi-blues number this song featured his sometime band mates David Crosby and Graham Nash on vocals.

Old man

This was the only other chart hit from "Harvest". In 1970 Young had purchased the Broken Arrow Ranch in Northern California. The two caretakers of the ranch were a husband and wife name Louis and Clara Avila.

One day Louis took Young for a ride in an old blue Jeep to an elevated point on the ranch where there was a lake which fed the nearby pastures.

Surveying the landscape Louis asked Young, "Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?" Young replied, "Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky." To which Louis said, "Well, that's the darndest thing I ever heard." Young subsequently wrote "Old man" for him, comparing Avila's life to his own and suggesting that they're not so different after all.

There's a world

It would be difficult to imagine Neil Young backed by the London Symphony Orchestra if it didn't work so well. I haven't the foggiest idea what he's talking about in this song but it's so well arranged and played that I really couldn't care less.

In my final installment I'll finish my retrospective of the last few songs on Neil Young's "Harvest", including one of the most haunting songs ever written about the devastation caused by heroin addiction.

If you like Neil Young's "Harvest" then you'll like a song inspired by the story of a young soldier who returned from Iraq. For a limited time only you can download that song for FREE by clicking HERE.

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