Each month*, here at earworm a ‘classic album’ will be listened to and (re?)assessed to determine whether it truly deserves its place in the fabled pantheon of all those Best Albums Of All Time lists music magazines love to publish.
Feel free to join the debate and nominate albums for future ‘classic album?’ listening. Daniel Bond’s choice was Neil Young’s 1972 album, Harvest.
I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done
— The Needle And The Damage Done, Neil Young
Neil Young’s Harvest strikes me as a strange beast, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
I listened without prejudice despite it featuring three things I’m generally not keen on: country, folk and harmonica solos (ducks for cover as Bob Dylan fans bay for my blood on the tracks).
And I really, really liked it with a couple of glaring exceptions.
First, the sublime: there’s a nice laid-back and understated vibe present throughout. Young may not be the most technically gifted singer but his voice is welcoming and he works within his limitations on that front well. The likes of opener Out On The Weekend, Harvest and the frankly magnificent Heart Of Gold are immediately accessible. The Needle And The Damage Done, a live track with Young solely accompanied by acoustic guitar, also hits the mark.
And then there’s the ridiculous: A Man Needs A Maid being the main offender. Young does a Bob (Ellis, not Dylan) on that there pesky feminism by revealing ‘I was thinking that maybe I’d get a maid/Find a place nearby for her to stay/Just someone to keep my house clean/Fix my meals and go away’. Charming. It also, unfortunately, features a rare instance of Young’s limited vocal range straining at its seams as he wails its ‘A maaaaaaaan needs a maid’ chorus.
Elsewhere, some may find Old Man profound but it’s a bit trite with Young tackling that hoary old chestnut where he likens a hoary old chestnut – an elderly gent – to his youthful life and realises that – hey, man – we’re all the same no matter what our age is. And I could do without the ‘all God’s children’ platitudes of There’s A World which sounds like a disjointed musical stage show number. But maybe that’s just me.
At this point, it’s churlish to criticise too much though. Harvest is highly enjoyable despite some misgivings. A classic? Not for me. But here’s the thing. There’s certainly enough quality here to encourage a newcomer to Neil Young’s oeuvre to seek out more to listen to.
So, Neil Young fans – where to from here?
*I originally planned to listen to one ‘classic album?’ per week but upon reflection have decided to (re?)assess one per month instead to really listen to an album and give it a chance to work its charms. Just like the good old days before people flicked through CD – now iPod – tracks and people had to invest time in records since they couldn’t afford to buy or have the means to listen to everything.
Next month’s ‘classic album?’ will be 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan (not Ellis), nominated by John Crowe.
UPDATE: This breaking Neil Young news just in from The Onion News Network.