Neil Young’s best-selling #1 album, Harvest, was released as a 50th Anniversary box set on December 2nd, 2022.
This is not a remixed release like The Beatles have been doing, so what’s new?
Prior to the original release of the Harvest album, Neil Young performed many of the songs for a BBC-TV solo acoustic concert. It’s strange to hear the now famous guitar introduction of the #1 hit, “Heart Of Gold”, and no one applauds, because no one has ever heard the song before! Both the vinyl box set, and the CD box set include an audio version and a DVD version of that 8-song concert.
There are also three outtakes in each set…. “Journey Through The Past”, “Bad Fog Of Loneliness”, and “Dance Dance Dance”. What’s sparked the most interest is that each box set includes a DVD of a 2-hour documentary, Harvest Time. It was filmed in California, Nashville, and London during the recording of the 1972 album. A hard bound book with rare photos is also included.
Above is the vinyl box set. It has the original record, the BBC concert record, a 7-inch single that has the three outtakes, the concert DVD, the documentary DVD, a poster, and the book.
And here’s the CD version with the same line-up. By the way, the audio of the album, the concert, and the outtakes would easily fit on one CD.
The tracks on the two full albums:
CD1 / LP1 Harvest
- Out On The Weekend
- A Man Needs A Maid
- Heart Of Gold
- Are You Ready For The Country?
- Old Man
- There’s A World
- The Needle And The Damage Done
- Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
CD2 / LP2 BBC Concert (All songs live)
- Out On The Weekend
- Old Man (with intro)
- Journey Through The Past (with intro)
- Heart Of Gold (with intro)
- Don’t Let It Bring You Down (with intro)
- A Man Needs A Maid (with intro)
- Love In Mind (with intro)
- Dance Dance Dance
Prices vary a bit on retail sites, but the vinyl box set is about $150, and the CD box set is about $50.
Most hardcore Neil Young fans probably have all 21 music tracks, because the outtakes & concert have been bootlegged for years, but the book and the documentary are new.
An outtake of “Journey Through The Past” was on Neil Young’s Archive I release. It’s a country version with Neil’s back-up band, The Stray Gators, and it’s excellent. The outtake on this new set is a different version, no harmonica and more piano, but it’s also a great version. It’s a shame “Journey Through The Past” wasn’t originally included on Harvest.
The other two outtakes are less successful. “Bad Fog Of Loneliness” is just an okay song, and “Dance Dance Dance” is a lesser version of “Love Is A Rose”.
The BBC concert has improved audio from any previously available version. About two-thirds of the way through the first song, “Out On The Weekend”, Neil forgets the lyrics and just fills in with some oohs. Overall, it’s an enjoyable half-hour set. What was usual is that Neil performed the new songs he was developing for “Harvest”. At the time of the concert, he had already released three solo albums, and could have performed better known songs like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By The River”, “Cowgirl In The Sand”, “Tell Me Why”, and many others. But, Neil has always done things his way.
What’s missing from the box set are what had to be many more outtakes or alternate versions of songs that were included on Harvest. An album this good certainly wasn’t made up of miraculous single takes of each song. That quibble aside, Harvest (the top-selling album of 1972) deserves its 50th Anniversary celebration.
According to reviews (which have been positive), the film Harvest Time has some fascinating moments that show what life was like in 1971…at least for one 25-year-old rock star. Since the filming was done with no real plan for how to assemble the footage, it’s more a fly-on-the-wall experience than a concise documentary.