on February 18, 2004
This book does a good job of packing in a lot of informative bits, personal opinion, and musical history context -- I'm not sure it helped me re-discover an album I've liked for a long time -- but it is definitely an interesting, cheap and fun read.
The author does a good job of helping us understand Young's production techniques (or lack of them) and his attitude toward music making. I liked the musical context he gives us for country-rock and Young's contribution to it. Especially fresh was the author's attitude of the album as not being a superlative Young album. His critical take on the songs at the end of the book is not as enlightening as I had hoped -- it's really the first 50 pages of this 33.3 book that work for me.
The author should be credited for pulling in information like how often Young continues to play these songs in concert (context pertaining to Young's own ongoing attitude toward Harvest) and detailed information on the different CD (DVD-A) versions of the album and the merits and faults of each -- definitely helps one consider a new purchase of Harvest in the future.
Recommended for anyone who is a music geek or a Young fan.
I've always preferred loud, fuzzy Neil to sensitive, folky Neil and Harvest has never really been one of his albums I cared all that much about.
Digression - I spent a year or so in my mid teens disliking Neil Young because I thought he was America. Man, did I hate Horse with No Name and Ventura Highway. Sorry, Neil.
Sam Inglis' book on Harvest is almost stunningly short, but a worthy read. Not caring much for Harvest, I'd never paid much attention to. I bought it years and years ago out of fealty to Young, and as a completist, than out of any great appreciation for it. I did like a couple of the songs, but it has pretty much been my least-listened to NY album up until those that, later on in his career, I didn't pick up. Inglis, however, is sending me back to it. Like some of the others in the 33 1/3 series, this is, in some ways, its real value.
But that is selling it short. Inglis is persuasive in presenting the album as an underrated entry in Young's catalog - often overlooked by the simple virtue of being popular: the Neil Young album for those who don't really like Neil Young. He leads us through a track-by-track tour of the album, presenting it not as Young's best by any means, but as, perhaps, his most well-crafted, and featuring a few of his finest songs. He relates the background of the recording of the album, places it both within Young's catalog and the framework of the (musical) times in which it was released. 40 years on, it hard to remember that when this record came out, Young was best known for his sometime collaborations with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. (We used to refer to them as "Moe, Curly, Larry and Young".) If nothing else, this is the album that firmly established Young as a solo artist to the mass of listeners at the time.
I still prefer Tonight's the Night, On the Beach, Time Fades Away, Ragged Glory, and any number of other Neil records to Harvest. Harvest doesn't care. It keeps on selling and being proud of its songs and performances. And this slim, but worthy little volume about it will keep signing its praises. Rightly so.
on September 2, 2008
As Neil Inglis points out in his book, most Neil Young fans would not count Harvest among their favorite albums, even though it is by far Young's best-selling album (and the best-selling album of 1972!). I fall into this camp -- I considered Harvest pleasant enough, but much less interesting than Young's more rock-oriented work. It is a tribute to Inglis' book that it inspired me to listen to Harvest again with greater appreciation.
"Harvest" is part of the "thirty-three and a third" series of short books (more like long essays) written by critics and musicians about selected rock and jazz albums. Inglis, who is editor of "Sound on Sound" magazine, does a good job of placing "Harvest" in the larger context of Neil Young's career and in the various musical trends in play as the seventies were opening. In his view, "Harvest" was the first manifestation of "Country Neil" -- and an influential album at a time when most rockers still associated country as sell-out music for conservative Middle Americans. He is most informative showing how the Nashville style of recording (as opposed to the Los Angeles style on previous albums) created the sound of Harvest. He has good critical style -- he is a great admirer of both Neil Young as an artist of high integrity and of the album itself, but the book is mercifully free of "fan boy" hyperbole and Inglis doesn't hesitate to be harsh when he feels it is due. I don't always agree with him -- for example, I think he underrates "The Needle and the Damage Done". And he misses the point of "Are you Ready for the Country?" which was Neil Young's raucous, pre-emptive strike at the rock critics of the time who dismissed country music as bland and predictable. But, the point of reading criticism is not to find someone who always agree with you but to find someone who makes you think -- and Inglis certainly does that.
On the down side, even though it is quite short, the book is a bit repetitive and even feels a bit padded. Critical comments on the songs are repeated almost verbatim in different chapters. In addition, the book would have benefitted from a listing of all the tracks and the musicians and engineers involved in each one. But, all-in-all a worthwhile, short read for anyone with interest in Neil Young, or the music of the seventies.
on June 17, 2014
This is a very solid overview of "Harvest," with some insight into Young's larger career. The author doesn't tell you anything that McDonough's "Shakey" won't tell you better, but for those whose fandom doesn't extend to those lengths, it's a great introduction.