One of Neil Young's Best Gets a one and a half LP Reissue
though only forty seven when he recorded this, Young was in a reflective, nostalgic mood
One of Neil Young's finest, most reflective and at times sad and occasionally depressing albums, Harvest Moon released in 1992 finds the then 47 year old looking back. On the opener "Unknown Legend" he's remembering observing a waitress in a diner who a few years later he'd marry. About Pegi Young he sang "Never saw a woman look finer/I used to order just to watch her float across the floor".
On "From Hank to Hendrix" he reflects on how music provides the soundtrack to life and love. "From Marilyn to Madonna/ I always loved your smile/Now we're headed for big divorce/California-style", but he wasn't singing about his own divorce from Pegi, which wouldn't happen until 2014 twenty two years later.
The title tune is one of Young's most loving and romantic songs, one that celebrates a relationship's longevity—"Because I'm still in love with you/I want to see you dance again/Because I'm still in love with you/On this harvest moon."
On "You and Me" he reprises an old melody and becomes the "old man" he once sang about on the album Harvest released thirty years earlier (though the song had its unfinished origins in 1971). "One of These Days" has Young again looking back and promising to write a letter to all the good friends he's known, admitting to himself that while he "...never tried/To burn any bridges/Though I know I let some/Good things go." Fans steeped in Young lore, and CSN&Y lore could probably write a book off of that line!
On "Old King" he pays tribute to a dog who was "...the best old hound dog I ever did know", though he admits in the song to once kicking King.
Young has backing help from many of the musicians who played on the original Harvest including drummer Kenny Buttrey and bassist Tim Drummond as well as background vocals from Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Crosby, Stills and Nash were not onboard. Jack Nitzsche returned to arrange "Such a Woman" and as on the original Harvest there's a live track, the ten minute long "Natural Beauty" recorded at the Civic Auditorium, Portland, Oregon. It's a powerful plea for natural wonder preservation that refers to "An anonymous wall of digital sound", though he's not referring to this recording, which was not only digitally produced but at 44.1/16 bit CD resolution so do not expect Harvest-like sumptuous sound because you're not going to get it! It would be foolish indeed though to reject this album because of the sound, which Young and Chris Bellman have clearly tried to warm up here. As you would expect from Young the production itself is quite fine. Just the storage medium was lacking.
Because this was a 1992 release, back when vinyl releases were scarce, the only version I could find at the time was an Allsdorf German pressing mastered by Greg Fulginiti at Masterdisk, NY. It was okay. In 2009 Chris Bellman cut a version pressed for Furnace Manufacturing at Pallas in Germany—at least the test pressing I received was. I don't think it was ever released. It sounds like a straight and honest transfer, which means it sounds like a pretty nasty CD, though it does have some attractively brutal qualities, none of which suit the music!
For this release, the tracks have been spread to three sides of a two LP set, with side four containing an etching of the cover image. The sound has been considerably but deftly warmed up and pushed back somewhat in space compared to earlier pressings and you'll make it through the three sides, with your ears unscathed. It sounds pretty good actually but don't expect Harvest like sound!
When I pulled out the German original pressing out popped the obit for Pegi Young who died of cancer at age 66 New Year's Day 2019 not long after the Youngs were divorced. I keep obits in albums. Neil married Darryl Hannah in 2018. I had an on-stage make-out scene with her before she started her work on "Splash". That's a story for another time but I wonder if she remembers. I do!