Proclaiming his intentions with "Are You Ready for the Country?" Young detoured briefly to the Nashville mainstream. On this No. 1 1972 album, even the singer's acquired-taste voice comes across smooth and beautiful--the smash "Heart of Gold," with steel guitars and Linda Ronstadt's backup vocals, is by far Young's most commercial-sounding song. His usual dissonant touches, like the otherworldly guitar in "Out on the Weekend," are less spooky in this new context. The last two tracks, the deceptively gentle "The Needle and the Damage Done" and the hypnotic rocker "Words (Between the Lines of Age)," predict "Tonight's the Night," Young's haunted 1975 classic. --Steve Knopper
Review by William Ruhlmann
Neil Young's most popular album, Harvest employs a number of jarringly different styles. Much of it is country-tinged, although there is also an acoustic track, a couple of electric guitar-drenched rock performances, and two songs on which Young is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: the mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love. Young's concerns are perhaps most explicit on the controversial "A Man Needs a Maid," which contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help. Over and over, he sings of the need for love in such songs as "Out on the Weekend," "Heart of Gold," and "Old Man," and the songs are unusually melodic and accessible; the rock numbers "Are You Ready for the Country" and "Alabama" are in Young's familiar style and unremarkable, and "There's a World" and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" are ponderous and overdone. But the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend's descent into heroin addiction, "The Needle and the Damage Done," remain among Young's most affecting and memorable songs.