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Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Neil Young, 'Harvest'
Reprise Records

Forty years ago this week, Neil Young released his fourth solo album, a country rock collection that would go on to become one of the defining achievements of his career. The best-selling album of 1972, ‘Harvest’ topped the charts, gave Neil a Number One single with ‘Heart of Gold,’ and inspired a sequel 20 years later, ‘Harvest Moon’ — and now it’s getting its due with an episode of ‘InTheStudio.’

The program, hosted by Texas DJ Redbeard and syndicated to more than 50 stations across the country, has highlighted a number of classic rock records during its nearly 25 years on the air, including ‘Quadrophenia,’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ and ‘Bat Out of Hell.’ This week’s episode finds Redbeard talking with Young about his experiences making one of the defining albums of the ’70s, and examining the long trail of its influence on other artists.

“[Dylan's] ‘Nashville Skyline’ and ‘Harvest’ were really, I guess, the two excursions by popular music artists in the country recording field,” Young reflects at one point during the show (which is streaming here). “They were just taken as works. At that time, it was just like a thing we did. We went there and it sounded good …. Country music is based on songs and songs about people. It really all fit together real well.”

Interestingly, despite the album’s overwhelming commercial success, ‘Harvest’ was greeted with mixed reviews from critics; for instance, Rolling Stone’s John Mendelsohn accused Young of “invoking most of the L.A. variety of superstardom’s weariest cliches in an attempt to obscure his inability to do a good imitation of his earlier self,” while Bill Mann of the Montreal Gazette shrugged off the record, saying, “The lyrics have a certain pretentiousness to them, but somehow, Neil’s whimpering vibrato manages to be convincing.”

Meanwhile, the ever-restless Young — who phoned into ‘InTheStudio’ from his tour bus — is, as always, working on new music: he recently announced his plans to release a pair of new albums with Crazy Horse, which will presumably include elements of the 38-minute jam he posted a few weeks ago.

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