Remaster Class – Neil Young: Harvest

24, and There’s So Much More

When I spoke with Neil Young back in April 2014 about his ongoing search for how to share his music in the best resolution possible (Pono, we hardly knew ye), he was laser-focused on what he wanted his audience to experience. “Back when I started recording, we did everything we could so that our listeners could hear the music,” he told me. “The more we presented and the more you were able to hear, the happier you were.” And that brings us to one of the best examples of that superb-sounding emotional uplift impetus — February 1972’s Harvest, Young’s fourth and most successful solo album. On it, Young, his then-new backing band The Stray Gators, and a selection of A-list guests collectively capture the rustic charm of the Canadian-born artist’s roots as blended with the equilibrium-seeking spirit of the times (right-gatefold from the original LP, top left in photo).

Naturally, I love the literal feel and texture of my original, and now quite well-worn, 1972 Reprise LP — one of a few records that, by definition, must look and feel “vintage” in perpetuity. Dropping the needle on the Side 1 opener, “Out on the Weekend” — with Young’s expressive harmonica blasts and alternating gentle/forceful acoustic guitar strums coupled with Ben Keith’s wily pedal-steel lines — immediately set the timeless tone of the bountiful Harvest table. Oh, and those harmonies — especially the blends Young, James Taylor, and Linda Ronstadt get on “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold.” Every time I hear Ronstadt take it higher and higher on her final, multi-syllabic pass on the word “go-ohhh-old,” I get the chills.

For her part, while we were discussing Harvest in early 2014, Ronstadt clarified how it all went down at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville in February 1971. “It was just a long, long, long, long night, but it didn’t matter how tired you got — there was no discomfort, even though I was exhausted,” she recalled. “My voice was just ragged — just shredded — but I didn’t care. It was pure joy to do it. We were young and we were in the groove, so we kept on playing.” Ronstadt added that the banjo on “Old Man” was the result of pure James Taylor inspiration improvisation. “James had come into the studio and there was this banjo with six strings on it, tuned like a guitar,” she noted. “He picked it up and started fooling around with it, and I really liked the sound it settled into.”

I eventually bought the 1985 Reprise Redbook CD, 2004 Reprise reissue CD, and 2009 Reprise remastered HDCD for my usual archival purposes, but vinyl remained the best way to experience Harvest — at least until the Reprise’s 30th Anniversary DVD-Audio Disc came along in 2002 (top right). The DVD-A offered heavenly 24-bit/96kHz Dolby Digital 5.1 and 24/96 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 options, in addition to a 24/192 stereo version — but now, we have the new, digital-only 2023 Atmos mix overseen by Young and Niko Bolas that takes it all to the next level.

In Atmos, you hear the full character of drummer Kenny Buttrey’s snare on the title track and most especially on “Heart of Gold,” something that really only truly emerged on the earlier 5.1 versions. And, as dramatic as “A Man Needs a Maid” is in stereo in the middle of Side 1 on the LP, it soars even higher in Atmos, with the London Symphony Orchestra’s chimes, flute, and string section details floating above Neil’s stark piano playing and vocal field. The LSO’s final, into-the-red volume swell that comes just ahead of the song’s denouement adds the weighty emotional gut-punch the stereo version delivered as best it could until the surround mixes came along. I could even say “ditto” for the Atmospheric interplay between Neil and the LSO on “There’s a World” (and, well, I just did).

When the 50th anniversary of Harvest cropped up in 2022, Neil and Reprise delivered Harvest anew physically, serving up a pair of ample box sets — a 3CD/2DVD cube (back cover, bottom right) and a full-size 2LP+7-inch 45/2DVD edition (bottom left). I own both for completist purposes, but I’ve only spent recurring time with the LP box. There, you get the full stereo bloom of Harvest on the 180-gram LP1, Young’s February 23, 1971 BBC in Concert performance on both LP2 and DVD2, the two-hour 1971 Harvest Time documentary on DVD1, and a trio of outtakes on the 45. Ben Keith’s dobro on the “Journey Through the Past” outtake (Side A, Track 2) is simply sublime.

Harvest shows a younger Neil Young in his prime as an ever-questioning artist literally wise beyond his years. “Music wants to be heard, and it also needs to be felt,” Neil said to me a decade ago — and that core tenet still holds true today. Best in Atmos — but also worthwhile in just about any format you choose to consume it — Harvest continues to cultivate all the right feels between the lines of age.

febeyob608's picture

Jacksonville drywall company believes Neil Young's dedication to the quality of his music really shines through, doesn't it?

JaxonEli's picture

I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us.This particular is usually apparently essential and moreover outstanding truth along with for sure fair-minded and moreover admittedly useful My business is looking to find in advance designed for this specific useful stuffs…

jacketseller's picture
jacketseller's picture

Are you organized to embody timeless beauty and sophistication? Look no further than The Jacket Seller USA, your closing destination for premium leather-based apparel. Whether you're a style fanatic or actually in search of enhancing your fabric dresser with high-quality necessities, we've the whole thing you need to make an assertion.