Friday, April 3, 2009

Neil Young 24: Harvest Moon

A year after blowing our ears out, Neil came from the other end of the spectrum with Harvest Moon. Touted as the long-awaited sequel to Harvest, it did use many of the same musicians and made some direct references, but was a lot closer to Comes A Time in that it has little electric edge.
“Unknown Legend” is pleasant enough, a story of a waitress with a nice open-air feeling from riding the Harley. While we can’t decide if “From Hank To Hendrix” refers to Marvin or Williams, it’s an engaging tune about keeping relationships and love fresh after many years. “You And Me” is the most blatant echo of the past. Its chords are similar to “Old Man”, plus a key couplet had prefaced “I Am A Child” on a bootleg from 1971. Proving that good things come to those who wait, it’s good he took the time to finish this one. The title track is just lovely, illustrated by him happily dancing with Pegi in the video. “War Of Man” features the famous D modal tuning, and actually got airplay despite its pointed, anti-war lyrics.
“One Of These Days” had been around for a few years—he did a great version at the piano onstage in 1989—but it’s a nice look back at some old friends, some of whom were still playing with him. “Such A Woman” gets a dreamy Jack Nietzsche arrangement to show the positive side of “Expecting To Fly”; this partnership would work best the following year with “Philadelphia”. “Old King” pissed off a rather vocal segment of the audiences at his warm-up shows that year. (It’s about his dog, for crying out loud.) “Dreamin’ Man” is a very pretty song that took us the better part of ten years to realize is about a stalker. “Natural Beauty” ends the album similarly to “Mother Earth”: extraneous sound effects implore the preservation of the environment and keeping things as they are.
Harvest Moon is very easy listening, and that’s not a bad thing. It is the most satisfying of all his soft-country experiments of the previous twenty years, with something anyone could appreciate. At this point, he could do whatever he wanted and still sell records. Not only was it a tonic for two years of Crazy Horse and feedback, but a commercial slam-dunk: a return to the MOR country sound people waited twenty years for, not realizing he hadn’t really abandoned it.

Neil Young Harvest Moon (1992)—

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