By: Don Revie
Good ol' Harvest, Neil Young's most successful album (in sales at least), becoming his first, and to date only number one album. Is it his best? No, I would take After the Gold Rush and others over Harvest, but it is still a great album. The main reason this isn't as good as the other Young classics from this era is that he decided to use an orchestra on two songs, "A Man Needs a Maid" and "There's a World". These are fine songs mind you, IF they had been done in the style of the rest of the songs on Harvest. Instead, he brings in an orchestra and pretty much ruins the songs that way. As a result, these songs are easily the worst here, all because of that orchestra...
But the rest of the album is fine, and that opening one-two of "Out on the Weekend" and the title track is excellent. Then there is the classic hit from here in "Heart of Gold", Young's only song to reach number 1 on the charts. An obvious classic, with Young's touching vocals and great lyrics.
On side two, there are the only two electric songs on the album in "Alabama" and "Words" (Between the Lines of Age). Both of the songs are great, but they are eclipsed by the incredible "Old Man" and "The Needle and the Damage Done" , which were released as a single. "Old Man" has become a Young standard, while "The Needle and the Damage Done" delivers one of Young's greatest and most poignant messages about heroin overdose, which would soon take the life of a bandmate and friend in Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten.
Harvest is a classic, and would be just as good as Young's other classics from the era if it weren't for that damn orchestra on those two tracks, which makes them feel out of place. At least the other songs are all of great quality, and lift this album over that one misstep. Grab this one, and once you get over the orchestra tracks, you have a great album on your hands.