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Harvest is 50!

By Marc Zisman |

To celebrate the anniversary of his masterpiece recorded with the Stray Gators, Neil Young offers a new edition with a live solo album from 1971 and some bonus tracks.

For the general public as well as for many of his fans, Harvest remains the summit of Neil Young's rich seventies discography. Based on a background of country-rock and melancholic folk, the art of the man nicknamed the Loner shines with a thousand lights throughout this fourth album released in February 1972. In those days, Harvest was a sort of bucolic and country holy grail, recorded with a new group of brilliant studio sharks from Nashville called the Stray Gators with Ben Keith on steel guitar, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Tim Drummond on bass and the immense Jack Nitzsche on piano and arrangements. Harvest, which sometimes exposes his tumultuous relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress - mother of his first son Zeke - also offers impressive dark areas like on The Needle and the Damage Done, a stunning ballad about the heroin addiction of his guitarist Danny Whitten, who was to die of a drug overdose in November of the same year, just after being kicked out of the band by Neil Young...

But behind its blissful peace & love, in which David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, as well as James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, participated, Harvest remains a rich, tormented and melodically perfect work. A faultless album that even features the violins of the London Symphony Orchestra (A Man Needs a Maid and There's a World), handled with care and taste. An album that will influence many generations and that celebrates its 50th birthday with a luxurious edition enhanced with 17 tracks. Including a gold nugget revered by Neil Young bootleg collectors: his 23rd February 1971 solo concert at the BBC. As a bonus, alternative takes of three tracks (Bad Fog of Loneliness, Journey Through the Past and Dance Dance Dance) are also included. Enough to make this 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition indispensable.

In order to make this anniversary even crazier, Neil Young is releasing in parallel a mo-nu-men-tal documentary! But a documentary that is made for his real fans. Directed by the Canadian himself under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey, Harvest Time - A film from 1971 that offers more than two hours of archive footage exclusively dedicated to the recording of this album. The footage was mainly shot in three places: the barn of Neil Young's ranch (Broken Arrow) in California, London for the sessions with the LSO (probably the most fascinating scenes) and Nashville with the Stray Gators. The editing is quite succinct and the sequences are quite long, but nonetheless enthralling. We really witness the birth of a masterpiece, with its experimentations, its highs, its lows, its questionings, its moments of grace and its unusual passages. This Neil Young, only in his twenties, already has the confidence of a genius and his aura is impressive throughout this documentary, which takes its time. Now in his seventies, the Canadian recalls that Harvest was not just another album in his discography. "It's a big record for me. Fifty years ago, I was 24, maybe 23, and that album made a big difference in my life. I played with some great friends and it's really cool that it lasted so long. I had a great time and today when I listen to it, I think I was really lucky to be there." When Harvest Time ends, it's hard not to think like him...


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