Neil Young has explored lots of musical territory and taken some interesting chances, but in my own view as a longtime fan, he's at his strongest when he's at his most acoustic and mellow. The "godfather of grunge" was also the guy who invented "unplugged."
For those whose tastes match my own, _Harvest_ is likely to rank as a favorite among Young's many albums. (And longtime listeners will recall that at one time Young had planned a follow-up to _Harvest_ to be entitled _Homegrown_. Two cuts intended for this album -- "Star of Bethlehem" and "The Deep Forbidden Lake" -- appeared on _Decade_.)
_Harvest Moon_ is a conscious attempt to recall, celebrate, and go beyond that earlier album, and it reassembles all of the key personnel: the beloved Stray Gators, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, even arranger Jack Nitzche. (Even one or two songs from the old LP are deliberately invoked: "You and Me," a spare and lovely duet with the late and sorely missed Nicolette Larson, makes explicit reference to "Old Man.")
But Young didn't exactly stand still during the two decades between the two releases. _Harvest Moon_ is a much more mature and satisfying collection -- better written, better performed, better produced. Young's lyrics are wistfully evocative; his voice and guitar are clear, solid, and strong.
I could carry on at length about my favorites ("Unknown Legend," "War of Man," and "You and Me,") but I won't try to describe them. I'll just say that anyone who loved _Harvest_ will probably love this one even more.
Recorded at Redwood Digital, Woodside, California.
Both artistically and stylistically HARVEST MOON is the successor to HARVEST, Neil Young's landmark acoustic album from 1971, which featured the No. 1 single, "Heart Of Gold."
The song "Harvest Moon" was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award as "Record Of The Year."
The song "Harvest Moon" was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award as "Song Of The Year."
Neil Young's sequel to 1972's HARVEST found him reuniting with the Stray Gators and inviting along a few other famous friends. Unlike Crazy Horse's sonic bludgeoning, the Gators' light playing featured ethereal-sounding pedal steel and harmonies that caressed like a gentle lover. This was the perfect compliment for Young's songwriting, which was fueled by romantic notions of courtship and deep thought. Young and Nicolette Larson harmonized and became the lovers of "You and Me," whereas Jack Nitzsche's string arrangements made for a nice contrast in "Such a Woman," a bold-faced declaration of love. Other insights into the normally cranky iconoclast's sentimental side include the delicate touch of the title track, which leaves an image of slow-dancing in a dark corner.
Fast approaching 50, Neil Young also used HARVEST MOON to reflect back on his life, particularly in the biographical "One of These Days," and "From Hank to Hendrix," a twangy sequel to "My My, Hey Hey (Out of The Blue)." Young also continued his commitment to the environment by including both a protest against man's destruction of nature ("War of Man") and a live tribute to the forest and jungles recorded at a Portland, Oregon performance that included sounds of the Brazilian rainforest ("Natural Beauty.")
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1 Unknown Legend 4:32
2 From Hank to Hendrix 5:12
3 You and Me 3:45
4 Harvest Moon 5:03
5 War of Man 5:41
6 One of These Days 4:55
7 Such a Woman 4:36
8 Old King 2:57
9 Dreamin' Man 4:36
10 Natural Beauty 10:22
Neil Young (vocals, guitar, harmonica)