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Neil Young's Harvest (Thirty Three and a Third series) Paperback – September 17, 2003
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"A fascinating book about a fascinating album…the insights into Young’s life, methodology, and fans’ and critics’ reactions are compelling." – Leaf Salon, New Zealand
"…[Inglis's] lack of flash and authority has its upside; his ego stays far enough out of the way that emphasison the nuts 'n' bolts of the recording history of "Harvest" actually helps you hear what's going on…B" —Austin American-Statesman, 10/17/04
From the Publisher
"Thirty Three and a Third" is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. The authors provide fresh, original perspectives often through their access to and relationships with the key figures involved in the recording of these albums. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music. What binds the series together, and what brings it to life, is that all of the authors musicians, broadcasters, scholars, and writers are huge fans of the album they have chosen.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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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.
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.