Harvest topped the U.S. charts and spawned a number one single in ‘Heart Of Gold’ – difficult to imagine from someone whose songs include ‘Roll Another Number (For The Road)’, and ‘Let’s Impeach The President’. Alongside Comes A Time and Harvest Moon, which both recreate the Harvest aesthetic, Harvest is Young’s most palatable album, recorded with a group of Nashville session pros rather than Crazy Horse, and the songs sweetened up by backing vocals from James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Harvest isn’t particularly coherent; the three orchestrated tracks are often overbearing, and are jarring alongside the gentle country-rock that comprises the majority of the album.
Of the orchestral tracks, ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ is terrific and one of Young’s most fascinating tracks, with its rich orchestration rubbing against Young’s fragile voice, and its simultaneously vulnerable and misogynistic lyrics. The title track and ‘Old Man’ are two low-key but top drawer songs, while the solo ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ is a warning against heroin addiction, delivered over a terrific chord sequence. The hard-rocking ‘Alabama’ is akin to ‘Southern Man’, and was part of the song dialogue between Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
There are plenty of strong songs on Harvest, but despite its commercial stature it’s not among the top tier of Neil Young’s albums.