In February 1972, Neil Young released an album which would – despite earning somewhat mixed reviews at the time of its initial release – go on to become one of the most well-respected and acclaimed LPs of his career.
Recorded variously at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Barking Town Hall in London, Broken Arrow Studio No. 2 in Woodside, California, and UCLA’s Royce Hall, Harvest was produced predominantly by Young and Elliot Mazer, but there are three exceptions: Jack Nitzsche helmed “A Man Needs a Maid” and “There’s a World,” and Henry Lewy twiddled the knobs on “Needle and the Damage Done.”
Harvest came about in the wake of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young dissolving in 1970, at which point Young teamed up with some session musicians well versed in country and western, dubbing them The Stray Gators and recording an album’s worth of tunes. One of them, “Heart of Gold,” turned into Young’s first-ever No. 1 hit.
Mind you, the Harvest album as a whole also proved to be a No. 1 hit for Young, climbing to the top spot on the Billboard 200 and remaining there for two weeks. It’s a fair bet that one of the other reasons for that success was the tune “Old Man,” which quickly became a signature tune for Young, even if it never climbed above No. 31 on the Hot 100.
It’s clear that Young was still on decent terms with his former (and future) bandmates, given that they all provide backing vocals at one point or another: David Crosby is on “Are You Ready for the Country” and “Alabama,” Stephen Stills is on “Alabama” and “Words,” and Graham Nash is on “Words” and “Are You Ready for the Country.” Meanwhile, you’ve also got James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt providing backing vocals on “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man,” their appearance apparently having resulted from Young making an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show, as did the twosome.
To this day, Young has never managed to achieve another No. 1 album, but when you’ve got one as legendary as Harvest, how many No. 1 albums do you really need, anyway?