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Harvest is the fourth solo album by Neil Young, released February of 1972 on Reprise Records, catalogue RS 6317. It featured the London Symphony Orchestra on two tracks, while noted guests David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, and James Taylor contributed vocals. It topped the Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks, and spawned two hit singles, "Old Man", which peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Heart of Gold", which peaked at #1. It was the best-selling album of 1972.


After Young left Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, he recruited a group of country session musicians (which he christened The Stray Gators) and recorded a country rock record in Harvest. The record was a massive hit, producing a US number one single in "Heart of Gold". Other songs returned to some usual Young themes: "Alabama" was "an unblushing rehash of 'Southern Man'"; and "The Needle and the Damage Done" was a lament for great artists who had died of heroin addiction. The album's success caught Young off guard and his first instinct was to back away from stardom. He would later write that the record "put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there."

"Words (Between the Lines of Age)", the last song on the album, featured a lengthy guitar workout with the band. It has a typical Neil Young structure consisting of four chords during the multiple improvised solos. The song is notable for alternating between a standard 4/4 time signature for verses and choruses and an unusual 11(3+3+3+2)/8 for interludes.

Recording of Harvest

Young arrived in Nashvillemarker in 1971 to perform on the Johnny Cash Show for a broadcast where Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor would also appear. Elliot Mazer had opened Quadrofonic Sound Studios in Nashville, and invited Young to dinner on Saturday, February 6, to convince him to record at the studio. Neil admired the work of the the local studio musicians known as Area Code 615 and was interested. Young had been working on new songs that he had been performing on the road, as seen by the repertoire on Live at Massey Hall 1971, and told Mazer that all he needed was a bassist, drummer, and pedal steel guitarist.

Mazer gathered drummer Kenny Buttrey, bassist Tim Drummond (who was just walking down the street), and guitarist Ben Keith. That night, they laid down the basic tracks for "Heart of Gold", "Old Man", "Harvest", and "Dance Dance Dance," the latter left off the album but showing up that year on the debut Crazy Horse album. Session musicians Andy McMahon and John Harris were brought in to play piano on "Old Man" and "Harvest", respectively, and Teddy Irwin added the second acoustic guitar on "Heart of Gold".

After taping the Johnny Cash Show on Sunday night, Young brought Ronstadt and Taylor back to the studio. The three sat on a couch and recorded the background vocals for "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man." Taylor picked up Young's Banjo guitar (a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar) and overdubbed a part for the latter song.

"Bad Fog of Loneliness" and "Journey Through the Past" were recorded during these sessions as per their appearance on Young's The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972, which lists the same musicians in the credits including Harris on "Journey" and Ronstadt and Taylor on "Bad Fog". "Journey Through the Past" was released in a solo piano form on Time Fades Away, and "Bad Fog of Loneliness" remained unreleased until Live at Massey Hall 1971 in 2007.

The electric-based songs were recorded in a barn at Young's ranch in California. Using a remote recording system, Mazer set up PA speakers in the barn rather than the players using headphones. This resulted in a lot of "leakage" of each microphone picking up sound from other instruments, but it resulted in a sound that Young and Mazer liked. "Are You Ready for the Country", "Alabama", and "Words" were recorded in these sessions with Buttrey, Drummond, Keith, and Jack Nitzsche on piano. Young named this band The Stray Gators, which would accompany him on his tour in the winter of 1973.

"A Man Needs a Maid" and "There's a World" were recorded by Nitzsche with the London Symphony Orchestra, and "The Needle and the Damage Done" was taken from a live performance at UCLA. Background vocals by Crosby, Stills & Nash were recorded by Mazer in New York.

Mixing was done at both Quadrofonic and at Young's house. During playback at the ranch, Mazer ran the left channel into the PA speakers still in the barn and the right channel into speakers in the house. With Crosby and Nash beside him Young sat outside listening to the mix. When asked about the stereo balance, he called out, "More barn."

According to a Rolling Stone interview, Young had wanted the album sleeve to biodegrade after the shrink-wrap was broken, but was overruled by the record company on the basis of expense and the possible product loss due to shipping accidents.


In 1998 Q magazine readers voted Harvest the 64th greatest album of all time. In 1996, 2000 and 2005, Chart polled readers to determine the 50 greatest Canadianmarker albums of all time — Harvest placed second in all three polls, losing the top spot to Joni Mitchell's Blue in 2000, and to Sloan's Twice Removed in the other two polls. In 2003, Rolling Stone named Harvest the 78th greatest album of all time. In 2007, Harvest was named the #1 Canadian Album of All Time by Bob Mersereau in his book The Top 100 Canadian Albums.


On October 15, 2002 Harvest was digitally remixed and remastered for the DVD-Audio format. The new 5.1 mix was a minor subject of controversy due to its unconventional panning, with the vocals in the centre of the room and the drums in the rear speakers. Harvest was remastered and released on HDCD-encoded CD and digital download on July 14, 2009 as part of the Neil Young Archives Original Release Series. It is also planned to release the remastered version on audiophile vinyl and in high resolution digital on Blu-ray disc, although release dates for those formats have not yet been announced.

Track listing

All tracks written by Neil Young. Orchestra conducted by David Meecham, and arranged by Jack Nitzsche.

Side one

  1. "Out on the Weekend" – 4:34
  2. "Harvest" – 3:11
    • Young - guitar, vocal; Keith - pedal steel guitar; John Harris - piano; Drummond - bass; Buttrey - drums
  3. "A Man Needs a Maid" – 4:05
  4. "Heart of Gold" – 3:07
  5. "Are You Ready for the Country?" – 3:23

Side two

  1. "Old Man" – 3:24
    • Young - guitar, vocal; Keith - pedal steel guitar; Taylor - banjo guitar, backing vocal; James McMahon - piano; Drummond - bass; Buttrey - drums; Ronstadt - backing vocal
  2. "There's a World" – 2:59
    • Young - piano, vocal; with the London Symphony Orchestra
  3. "Alabama" – 4:02
    • Young - electric guitar, vocal; Keith - pedal steel guitar; Nitzsche - piano; Drummond - bass; Buttrey - drums; Crosby, Stephen Stills - backing vocals
  4. "The Needle and the Damage Done" – 2:03 (recorded in concert January 30, 1971)
    • Young - guitar, vocal
  5. "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" – 6:40
    • Young - electric guitar, vocal; Keith - pedal steel guitar; Nitzsche - piano; Drummond - bass; Buttrey - drums; Stills, Nash - backing vocals

Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1972 Billboard 200 1
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart



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