This week and possibly next, I’ll look at some of the albums considered the best of 1972 — records I either haven’t heard or haven’t spent enough time with to render my own judgment.
First up is Neil Young’s Harvest, the best-selling album of 1972 and Young’s all-time best seller. The album is considered a classic, though it wasn’t universally acclaimed upon its release and still has its share of detractors.
I’m not a Neil Young fan, to put it mildly. I admire his songwriting skills but I simply can’t stand his voice. Give me Bob Dylan, Rufus Wainwright, Morrissey and a hundred other artists derided as vocally annoying, but do not make me listen to five minutes of Neil Young. His nasal whine is unlistenable.
That’s why I’ve made it through 2,523 Songs of the Day without once featuring Neil Young, despite his solid reputation.
A funny thing happened at the movies last year, though. Paul Thomas Anderson used the title track of Harvest in a particularly effective scene in his film Inherent Vice and I fell in love with it. The rest of the album is still crap, but this song is quite lovely.
Did I see you down
In a young girl’s town
With your mother in so much pain?
I was almost there
At the top of the stairs
With her screaming in the rain
Did she wake you up
To tell you that
It was only a change of plan?
Dream up, dream up
Let me fill your cup
With the promise of a man
Did I see you walking with the boys
Though it was not hand in hand?
And was some black face
In a lonely place
When you could understand?
Will I see you give
More than I can take?
Will I only harvest some?
As the days fly past
Will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun?
It’s amazing how inclusion of this song by on of your favorited directors changed your impression of at least something Young did. Still, writing off the rest of an album as “crap” that includes “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold” and “Needle and the Damage a Done” is harsh. I wonder if a favorite director using any of these tracks in a movie would soften your impression on them.
Admittedly, “crap” was a strong word. I did re-listen to those songs and others when preparing this blog post, and the vocal performances are as grating as I remembered. Today’s song is an exception, as it has a soothing quality the others lack. I suspect that’s why Anderson chose it for his film.