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Overrated? ............... yes
Sep 9, 2007 (Updated Jan 3, 2011)
Review by starcollector
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:It's meticulously made
The Bottom Line: This classic album might have been a mega commercial success... but really, it's one of Young's worst, most boring albums.
(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what they’re looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a Neil Young fan.)
Recommend this product?
Overall Score: 4/5
Best song: “Heart of Gold”
Worst song: “There’s a World”
A lot of critics throw the term “overrated” at this album. I read “overrated” so often that I wondered if it could still be considered overrated! But then I read a number of reviews on amazon.com and epinions.com, and I suppose the label must be maintained.
This album is overrated!!!! Before you spit poison at me, I’ll have you know that I think this is a legitimately good album. It’s very meticulous and well constructed. He went for more of a minimalist approach meaning that there were very few “wasted” notes. All of this contributes to making sitting through Harvest a decent experience. Young obviously worked very hard on this, and the result is professional! The problem is … well, it’s boring!! It’s not even the same level of boring that his previous albums; this brings it to a whole new degree. The experience is a bit like going to a very clean and big budget museum, but none of the exhibits are interesting. It’s too professional and earnest to ever warrant hurling insults at it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.
The lyrics are fine and I can see how this album would be popular among the tone deaf, but the melodies and instrumentation overall fall short. Each song is a different case, of course! I think “Heart of Gold” has a great melody and well-conceived instrumentation. It’s a major classic rock staple, and why shouldn’t it be? “Old Man” is alright. The melody is pretty awful, but the instrumentation turned out to be well done (featuring a banjo!) and it develops well enough to keep me engaged. … Some of the album’s weaker bits included the fan-favorite “Harvest” with one of the most uninteresting melodies on the album. (I seem to be alone in my distaste for “Harvest.” I don’t know what’s wrong with me.) For “Alabama,” Young was kind enough to give us some crunchy guitars! But then he betrayed us by not doing anything else, musically, interesting with it.
Young imports the London Symphony Orchestra for two of these tracks. “A Man Needs a Maid” proved to be well orchestrated with evolving textures and an extremely beautiful piano to boot. But the LSO-accompanied “There’s a World” goes absolutely nowhere and the orchestration is just awful. That’s the worst track of the album by far, and it alone should disqualify Harvest from being on any best-of lists.
The biggest betrayal of them all was this was a terribly uncreative album, which was uncharacteristic of Young. Better rotate those crops for the next album!
Out on the Weekends B
A perfectly nice little tune! The melody is well-written. The instrumentation is very minimal, which surprises me. Just a very lightly acoustic guitar strumming and a slide guitar goofing around in the deep background. A harmonica is recruited later on. It might have benefited from a little more studio innovation. For example, why does that drummer have to sound like he’s some sort of robot? This isn’t even fun like 㣴s New Romantic music was. What gives??? Anyway, this lack of development cost the song a few brownie points.
I know this is a critic favorite. I listened to this a great number of times and tried to figure out what’s so great about it. I couldn’t find it. This is just a typical country/western ditty and not much better than anybody else’s average country tune. Young sings a very simple, repetitive and unoriginal melody while the boring drummer drums and the bass player doesn’t seem to give a damn. All that said, it’s very clean and tasteful. Squeaky clean. What’s with the ending? Young normally does a fade-out, which is a weak idea to begin with, but he seems to stop playing. What a bummer…
A Man Needs a Maid B+
A little less derivative and boring than the previous two tracks. It opens with some simple, organic piano as Young delivers a number of heartfelt lyrics. (Barf!) He then brings in the London Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra manages to give the song some varied texture, which is very welcome. Brought down from a potential A- for feeling like it was a minute too long.
Heart of Gold A
He would never get another #1 hit! That’s probably a good thing… who likes a popular song? (I mean, Joe Public has horrible taste in music!) But this is a very good song, fortunately. Some nicely done acoustic guitar strumming open the festivities and Young delivers a legitimately catchy melody. The drumming is a bit more involved here than usual, which is to its severe benefit.
Are You Ready For the Country? B+
The very beginning seemed to feature the band gearing up moments before they started playing the root of the song. That’s about the only undisciplined part of the whole album! Also a semi-detached electric guitar can be heard playing in the background, which gives it a nice texture. Somehow, this reminds me of a Beatles song but with a blander melody. Well… I suppose that’s a compliment!
Old Man B+
A banjo? Neat! The song deserves an extra point just for that… it lends the song a perfect sound and texture. I also really like that he swelled the mood for the chorus. It grabs my attention when it comes up! Problems arise when I consider the melody, which has only a single good hook that’s repeated a bunch. Young’s not exactly living up to his “great songwriter” reputation there. A minor nit-picking is there’s an awkward transition at the very end of the song… It’s a small kink, but more evidence that this isn’t a flawless album like it was pretending to be.
There’s a World D+
The London Symphony Orchestra is completely showcased here… no rock or country instruments whatsoever. There are a number of problems I must address, but where to start? … First of all, the style of orchestration is the exact same as an old 㣌s or 㣖s cinematic score except distinctly cut-rate. Secondly, hearing this song develop is less entertaining than watching paint dry (thank goodness it doesn’t take as long). Thirdly, the melody sucks. Fourthly, the clean orchestra sound combined with Young’s voice is like Beauty and the Beast except they killed each other in the end. (The fourth point might have had an unintentionally interesting effect if Young experimented with it more, but he wasn’t in an experimenting mood.) I think I said enough.
The sounds of crunchy guitar licks are like an oasis to my ears! But what’s with the boring melody? The tempo is frustratingly slow, too. What’s the dillyo? Godfather of grunge lost the kick? LOST THE SOUL?? BORING!!!!
The Needle and the Damage Done B-
Wrong. The damage is almost done. There’s still one track to go after this. This is a two-minute ditty featuring Young singing a boring old melody to simple guitar strumming. This is all fine enough, but he’s actually done folk ditties better than this before. (A live recording, eh? He gets a polite applause!)
Words (Between the Ages) B-
This is kind of OK. Really more than OK. It goes on for six minutes and it’s verrrry mellow and drags on for too long. The melody doesn’t make an impression whatsoever and repeats too much. But then there’s an electric guitar solo in here! For the first time in the album, a guitar solo and it’s a bit of a sloppy one! It’s a little odd considering its context, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.
It’s not bad! It’s not one of the best albums of all rock ‘n’ roll, as it is often dubbed. It’s not even one of the best albums of Young’s discography.
Read more Neil Young reviews by Starcollector!
Neil Young (1969) | Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969) | After the Gold Rush (1970) | Harvest (1972) | On the Beach (1974) | Tonight's the Night (1975) | Zuma (1975) | American Stars 'N Bars (1977) | Comes a Time (1978) | Rust Never Sleeps (1979) | Live Rust (1979) | Hawks & Doves (1980) | Re-ac-tor (1981) | Trans (1982) | Everybody's Rockin' (1983) | Old Ways (1985) | Landing On Water (1986) | Life (1987) | This Note's For You (1988) | Freedom (1989) | Ragged Glory (1990) | Weld (1991) | Arc (1991) | Harvest Moon (1992) | Unplugged (1993) | Sleeps With Angels (1994) | Mirror Ball (1995) | Dead Man (1996) | Broken Arrow (1996) | Year of the Horse (1997) | Silver & Gold (2000) | Rock Road Vol. 1 (2000) | Are You Passionate? (2002) | Greendale (2003) | Prairie Wind (2005) | Living With War (2006) | Chrome Dreams II (2007) | Fork in the Road (2009) | Le Noise (2010)
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