Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Neil Young was recovering from tinnitus and had decided to put down the distorted electric guitar and to revisit his acoustic side, as exhibited on the chart-topping Harvest and lesser-known Comes A Time. The result was Harvest Moon.

1) Unknown Legend

This song sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s played in a very country style, with the lyrics telling of a free-spirited woman who rides the desserts with a Harley-Davidson. Neil Young veteran, Ben Keith’s slide guitar stands out, as well as with female backing vocals from (also Neil Young veterans) Nicolette Larson and Linda Ronstadt. There are some nice clean electric guitar fills in between verses that you will be humming for hours after hearing. 4/5

2) From Hank To Hendrix

This is an upbeat song about a woman Neil loves who he’s been with since, well forever. It’s a nice upbeat song with lots of Neil’s classic folk harmonica, pump organ between verses and a prominently thumpy bass line. Neil does it again with his lyrics, especially how he expresses his love for music in “Can we get it together, Can we still stand side by side, Can we make it last, Like a musical ride"” 5/5

3) You and Me

One word. Reverb. This song is performed solo by Neil, sounding like he’s playing alone to himself in an empty auditorium. It’s a very mellow, repetitive song (like Round and Round off of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere) with lots of his trademark slides and hammer-ons. He starts to duet with Nicolette Larson after a while, and the song ends suddenly at nearly the four-minute mark. 3.5/5

4) Harvest Moon

This, the title track, most popular song and sole Greatest Hits representative off of Harvest Moon is by no means overrated. Corny at times, yes, but a solid song as well. The sound of a broom being swept features in the background prominently, providing an atmospheric touch to the mellow country-style ballad that is ‘Harvest Moon’. The lyrics are pretty unremarkable, just a typical love-ballad, but are still very catchy, along with the acoustic lick the pops up here and there. The harmonica solo towards he end is one of Neil’s best. 5/5

5) War of Man

This is (how can I say this") the “heaviest” song on the album. Like ‘No Wonder’ off of Prairie Wind, this song definitely stands apart from the other songs, mainly because it features more ‘rock’ style instrumentation (dig Kenny Buttrey’s drums) than the country feel on the rest of the album, and the lyrics paint a more abstract mental picture. The backing vocalists take over at one point, and Neil lays his patented acoustic playing style all over the place. A nice little solo mimicking the vocal line pops up at the end, and the song fades out right before you start to get bored. Perfecto. 4/5

6) One of These Days

This is one of the songs you just know is going to close the concert when he plays it, it just has that feel to it (he actually did so in the ‘Heart of Gold’ movie, which you should check out by the way). The chorus is catchy as hell, and it’s hard to not sing along with it if you’re driving in a car or are alone listening to it. The lyrics are uplifting, but closer analysis really shows their sour side; the line “One of these days, I'm gonna’ sit down and write a long letter ,To all the good friends I've known” could actually mean that he he’ll never actually get around to said task. Still, nice song. 4.5/5

7) Such a Woman

Ah, the big, orchestral piece, the ‘There’s A World’, the ‘A Man Needs A Maid’, the ‘Living With War’. It’s over before you know it, but it’s a beautiful love song. The lyrics are few, but nice, telling of the only woman who can fulfill Neil’s love so much. Give it a listen, Jack Nitzsche (pronounced Nitch-ee, and not Neech-yeh)’s string arrangement is fantastic. 4.5/5

8) Old King

This is a fun song. It features Neil plucking a banjo riff that’ll be bouncing around in your head for days and a fast-paced tempo. The song itself is about Neil’s faithful dog, Elvis, and their adventures together before he “up and died”. I’m not sure if it’s a satire off hick-style music or just unintentionally that way, but this little two-minute gem is a funny one. 4.5/5

9) Dreamin’ Man

This song is a predecessor of ‘Here for You’ from Prairie Wind, with similar arrangement and vocal line, and since I heard the latter first, I can’t help but compare this one to that one. It’s an upbeat song, with a little, plucky riff between verses and somewhat angelic backing vocals. This is one of the more forgettable numbers (I stress no bad connotations on that statement), but it is not as bland and empty like, say, ‘You And Me’ or ‘War of Man’, so it’s still worth a listen. 3/5

10) Natural Beauty

Over the years, Neil Young has been known for either long, drawn out epic album closers (i.e.: Cowgirl In The Sand and Words) or short little ditties that discretely end the albums (* la Cripple Creek Ferry). Natural Beauty is a long (clocking at over ten minutes long) acoustic eco-ballad seemingly recorded live. After some rowdy fan applause, the epic tale begins, with Neil proclaiming that “Natural Beauty should be preserved like a monument” and how the world is going to hell. Great harmonica and words and that still ring true today fill this song and even though it’s extended length can seem like a lot to fill in without numerous distorted guitar solos and thousands of verses, the song barely gets boring, and the album goes out like Rust Never Sleeps, fading out over the sound of the audience applauding, but this time cross-fading into the sound of a cricket chirping, on this Harvest Moon. 5/5

Tracklist for Harvest Moon:

1. Unknown Legend

2. From Hank to Hendrix

3. You and Me

4. Harvest Moon

5. War of Man

6. One of These Days

7. Such a Woman

8. Old King

9. Dreamin' Man

10. Natural Beauty

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