How Neil Young Got Ready for the Country on ‘Harvest’

(via Ultimate Classic Rock) by Dave Lifton

Note: Neil Young’s Harvest album was released 50 years ago today.

Between his work in Buffalo SpringfieldCrosby, Stills Nash & Young and his first few solo records, Neil Young had often flirted with mixing country and rock. But with Harvest, released on Feb. 1, 1972, he more or less dove headfirst into it and came out with one of country-rock’s most commercially and critically successful albums.

Work began a year earlier when Young went to Nashville to appear on The Johnny Cash Show, on an episode that also included James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Elliot Mazer, who had produced Ronstadt’s Silk Purse album a year earlier, arranged a party at his Quadrofonic Sound Studio for the three artists, and struck up a conversation with Young…

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“More Barn!”…Neil Young Finally Confirms The Most Popular Legend About Him

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of Neil Young  (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

(via Huffington Post) by Todd Van Lulling

Graham Nash — of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — has a story about his friend, Neil Young, that has been almost too perfect to believe for nearly three decades.

As the myth goes, Nash was at Young’s ranch just south of San Francisco when Young asked him if he wanted to hear something. (That something would become Young’s now famous 1972 “Harvest” album, which features the track “Heart of Gold.”) Nash, of course, said yes and suggested going into Young’s studio. That wasn’t Young’s plan.

“He said, ‘Get into the rowboat,’” Nash explained on NPR’s Fresh Air in 2013. “I said, ‘Get into the rowboat?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go out into the middle of the lake.’”

The two row out on the lake, with Nash assuming Young brought a cassette player and headphones with him.

“Oh, no,” said Nash on NPR. “He has his entire house as the left speaker and his entire barn as the right speaker. And I heard ‘Harvest’ coming out of these two incredibly large loud speakers louder than hell. It was unbelievable. Elliot Mazer, who produced Neil, produced ‘Harvest,’ came down to the shore of the lake and he shouted out to Neil, ‘How was that, Neil?’”

The best part is Young’s apparent response to the situation. As Nash explained, “I swear to God, Neil Young shouted back, ‘More barn!’”

Ten Artists Sounding Uncannily Similar to Other Artists


Welcome to our little homage to musical homage. The following ten artists, whether by willful attempt or sheer happenstance, managed to pull off amazingly credible imitations of more notable musical acts. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We’ll let you decide:

Dave Kerzner: “Stranded”

This Dark Side-era Pink Floyd sound-alike couldn’t possibly have happened by accident. Kerzner’s 2014 New World album, though it literally and figuratively shows its influences on its sleeve, is actually an outstanding progressive rock record in its own right. But “Stranded”, more than any song I’ve ever heard, shows an artist who’s assimilated the Floydian musical vocabulary.



Lissie: “Further Away (Romance Police)”

Late-70’s Fleetwood Mac is revisited by singer-songwriter Lissie, complete with the Lindsey Buckingham guitar and Stevie Nicks vocals.


Ali Thomson: “Take a Little Rhythm”

You may remember this #15 hit from 1980. If so, you almost surely thought it was Paul McCartney because it perfectly mimicked the sound of his late-70’s hits, not to mention the Tom Scott sax solo of “Listen to What the Man Said” and the prominence of the bass guitar in the mix. And also because who the hell is Ali Thomson?


Jeremy Fisher: “Scar That Never Heals”

With all the stories floating around about Paul Simon cribbing musically from other artists it’s good to see another singer so “inspired” by Paul. Or so it sounds to me.



Kingdom Come: “Get it On”

This one’s just brazen. From John Bonham’s thunderous drum sound to Robert’s Plant’s wail to a riff that, to say the very least, “evokes” Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”…come on, guys. I mean, that sound is taken. Get your own.


Tyler Ramsey: “Stay Gone”

Neil Young is channeled on this one, though it’s not clear if Tyler Ramsey consciously does so. I hear echoes here of some of young Neil’s early 70’s tunes such as “Winterlong”.



Band of Horses: “Long Vows”

Again with the Neil Young! Band of horses sound like they got hold of a Zuma outtake here. In a good way.


UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Simon and Garfunkel Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Kings of Convenience: “Homesick”

The Norwegian duo known as Kings of Convenience capture the close harmonies and intimate spare sound of “Scarborough Fair”-period Simon & Garfunkel on this one. Or as their own words in this very song describe it “two soft voices, blended in perfection”.


Accept: “Balls to the Wall”

It seems in the world of 80’s metal you could scrape out a bit of a career merely by imitating an iconic act. Since their red hot career has presumably cooled off by now (unless like Spinal Tap they’re enjoying a revival in Japan) I wonder if it’s occurred to no-hit wonder Accept–and to the previously mentioned Kingdom Come for that matter–that there’s always a living to be made as a tribute band? Who could better fill the AC/DC void now that Brian Johnson has called it quits?



Tin Tin: “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”

In case you’re not conversant with late-60’s pop, or old enough to remember that the Bee Gees had quite a successful career before anyone had ever heard of disco, Aussie duo Tin Tin was pretty much exactly what the Gibb brothers sounded like from about 1968 to ’72. It’s not a shock that Maurice Gibb produced the quaint “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”, Tin Tin’s only U.S. top 40 hit and a long-forgotten chestnut. It carries the stately sound of contemporaneous Bee Gees hits such as “Lonely Days” and “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”.

Video of the Week: Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’ from the BBC, 1971

Neil Young performs “Old Man” on February 23rd, 1971 at the BBC Television Theater on London, prior to its release on 1972’s Harvest album.

The song was written for the caretaker of Broken Arrow Ranch in northern California, which Young purchased in 1970.

Video of the Week: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real–A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop

Video of the Week: A Young Neil sings a “New Song”

10 Albums That Almost Killed Careers

career kill

(Reprinted from Ultimate Classic Rock)

by Matthew Wilkening

Rock musicians, much like professional athletes and romantic partners, are constantly in danger of being asked, “But what have you done for me lately?” Even the biggest bands and solo stars can find themselves suddenly out of favor and plummeting down the charts if their latest album doesn’t live up to either their own legacies or fan expectations.

From Van Halen‘s ill-fated attempt to prove lightning can strike not just twice, but with three different lead singers, Kiss‘s mind-boggling attempt at creating a critic-pleasing concept album, the mighty Rolling Stones wandering too far from their strengths and many more, Ultimate Classic Rock and take a look at the 10 albums that almost killed the careers of some of rock’s biggest stars.

As you’ll see, luckily in nearly every case the “offending” artists were able to regroup, learn from their mistakes, re-connect with the magic that made us fall in love with them in the first place and resurrect their careers. Now let’s see exactly how and where they went wrong in the first place…

van halen

Van Halen: ‘III’

As far as selecting lead singers goes, the third time was definitely NOT the charm for Van Halen.

After racing straight to the top of the rock mountain with original frontman David Lee Roth, and miraculously managing to stay there for another decade after he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, Van Halen chose Extreme singer Gary Cherone as the group’s third vocalist. Their first (and only) album together, 1998′s ‘III,’ was a shapeless mess that was panned by critics and avoided by fans. It would be 14 years before the group returned — with Roth on the mic — with the triumphant ‘A Different Kind of Truth.’


Kiss: ‘Music from the Elder’

After watching their reign atop the late-’70s arena rock scene disappear in a puff of disco smoke, Kiss knew they had to do something big and bold to get back in the game. Unfortunately, 1981′s ‘Music from the Elder’ was an even bigger misstep.

Producer Bob Ezrin, fresh off the success of Pink Floyd‘s ambitious concept album ‘The Wall,’ decided that the facepainted marvels, whose lyrical depth typically topped out with tracks like ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Christine Sixteen,’ should tackle an album-length suite of songs about a young medieval warrior’s epic quest to save the world… or something. The end product, while admirably daring, is one of the most universally panned and mocked records in rock history. To their credit, they righted their creative ship the next year.


Rolling Stones: ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’

OK, here’s where we stretch the boundaries of this list’s title right up to the breaking point. After all, it’s not likely that any one album could kill the Rolling Stones‘ career, even one as odd, out of character and poorly received as 1967′s ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request.’

But it definitely sent them back to the drawing board. Clearly influenced by the psychedelic music of the era — and some would say, overly focused on keeping up with the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ — the Stones delivered an ambitious but ultimately unfocused effort that made them look like followers instead of leaders — at least, until they kicked off perhaps rock’s most impressive four-album run ever with ‘Beggars Banquet’ the next year.


Neil Young: ‘Trans’

If ever a rocker has valued chasing the constantly changing sounds in his head over making commercially safe career choices, it’s Neil Young.

Young, who followed up his warm, lush commercial breakthrough LP ‘Harvest’ with the abrasively dark ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ dabbles in genres like rockabilly, country and R&B as quickly as others change shirts. Even by those standards, 1982′s ‘Trans’ stands out as his most risky move; a synth-heavy semi-concept album featuring heavily processed vocals that confused many fans. Together with 1983′s ‘Everybody’s Rockin’,’ ‘Trans’ led Geffen Records to sue Young for making “unrepresentative” albums. He won, and has continued marching to his own drum regardless of the chart results to this day.


Bob Dylan: ‘Under the Red Sky’

Much like Neil Young, the creatively restless Bob Dylan has often — and seemingly willfully — tried to shake his fans loose from time to time.

Whether he was embracing electric guitars on 1965′s ‘Bringing it All Back Home,’ country and Americana on 1967′s ‘John Wesley Harding,’ or Christianity on 1979′s ‘Slow Train Coming,’ there have been plenty of times where Dylan risked alienating his listeners. But 1990′s ‘Under the Red Sky,’ filled with nursery-rhyme level lyrics and overly slick production, was the point where many wondered if the former visionary had simply lost the trail — or worse, given up. Luckily, the singer launched another (still going) winning streak with 1997′s ‘Time Out of Mind.’


Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Machina/The Machines of God’

According to Billy Corgan, there are numerous reasons that Smashing Pumpkins‘ 2000 would-be swan song sold fewer copies than ‘Adore,’ the divisive electronic-tinged album that came two years earlier. First, it’s a concept album whose storyline went way over people’s heads. And then there was the timing. The band was in the midst of breaking up, and the alt-rock scene was then ruled by the loud and dumb likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.

“So the combination of those elements was a career-killer,” Corgan said in a 2006 interview. “‘Adore didn’t alienate the audience, they were just sort of like, ‘Oh, it’s not the record I want.’ [‘Machina’] alienated people.”

Corgan waited seven years to revive the Pumpkins and issue a proper follow-up, ‘Zeitgeist.’ The album divided critics, but it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Last year’s ‘Oceana’ seemed to fare better, at least critically, and many hailed the disc as Corgan’s finest since the early ’90s.


Weezer: ‘Pinkerton’

After the success of Weezer‘s debut, 1994′s so-called ‘Blue Album,’ Geffen execs no doubt wanted more nerdy power-pop nuggets like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘The Sweater Song.’ Instead, mastermind Rivers Cuomo gave them a brutally honest, emotionally fraught song cycle based on the opera ‘Madame Butterfly.’ The tunes were catchy, but Cuomo’s sexual hangups and struggles with fame weren’t exactly the stuff of Top 40 singalongs. Critics balked, the disc peaked at No. 19 and Weezer went on hiatus.

When Weezer returned in 2001, it was with another self-titled effort, this one all about pop hooks. The ‘Green Album’ kicked off an unlikely second act that continues to this day. Interestingly, Weezer’s comeback was largely due to ‘Pinkerton,’ which had grown in stature throughout the ’90s. Whether better than ‘Blue,’ it trumps anything Cuomo has released since, though the middling likes of the ‘Red Album’ and ‘Raditude’ have done little to hurt the band’s standing.


R.E.M.: ‘Around the Sun’

R.E.M.‘s unlucky 13th album missed the U.S. Top 10 and failed to yield a hit single. For the first time since the mid-’80s, the Athens alt-rock heroes found themselves outside of the mainstream, only this time, it wasn’t because they were a cutting-edge cult act awaiting a commercial break. As guitarist Peter Buck admitted, they were tired old superstars who’d lost the plot.

“[‘Around the Sun’] just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is, a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore,” Buck said in 2008, the same year the band dropped ‘Accelerate,’ the first of two back-to-basics albums that reaffirmed R.E.M.’s relevance and ended their career on a relative high note. History was always going to look kindly on the group, but ‘Around the Sun’ would have been a dim end to the story.


U2: ‘Pop’

In the late ’90s, no flop was really going to kill U2‘s career, but ‘Pop’ was cause for concern. Following ‘Zooropa’ (1993) and ‘Achtung Baby’ (1991), the album capped a trilogy that saw these venerable stadium gods reinvent themselves as electro-rock experimentalists. The songs are built around loops, samples and the like, and while the band had made successful use of such techniques, ‘Pop’ suggested that Bono and the boys had run out of ideas and reached the end of a particular phase of their career. The public more or less agreed, and ‘Pop’ became U2′s lowest-selling disc since 1981′s ‘October.’

Having perhaps learned their lesson, U2 returned three years later with the more guitar-centric ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ The album spawned four smash singles and won seven Grammys, and to date, it’s sold more than 12 million copies.


The Clash: ‘Sandinista!’

No record better encapsulates the Clash‘s story than ‘Sandinista!’ Brilliant, infuriating, bursting with ambition yet bogged down with bad ideas, this 36-track triple LP perplexed fans and angered execs at CBS, who were strong-armed by the band into selling it for the price of a single album.

‘Sandinista!’ may have been a bargain, but it hardly flew off shelves. At a time when Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon might have become punk’s Fab Four, they went ‘White Album’ times 10, experimenting with soul, hip-hop, funk, disco, dub and even gospel, virtually ensuring there’d be no hits.

The Clash were already starting to splinter, and sessions for the follow-up, ‘Combat Rock’ (1982), proved extremely contentious. Remarkably, that album proved the band’s commercial breakthrough, and thanks to the singles ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ and ‘Rock the Casbah,’ the “Only Band That Matters” found itself on the pop charts, if only briefly.

Neil Young Explains Pono to David Letterman…Sort Of

Pono will give us “the best sound anybody can get” and Neil Young is already starting to transfer classic Bob Dylan albums to the new “Mother of all formats”.

Here’s hoping it truly makes the woeful mp3 obsolete one day soon.


Will Neil Young Save the Sound of Music?

neil young pono

(Photo and article reprinted from Rolling Stone)

Neil Young Expands Pono Digital-to-Analog Music Service

By Patrick Flanary

Aretha Franklin had never  sounded so shocking, Flea decided last year, as “Respect” roared from the  speakers of Neil Young’s Cadillac  Eldorado. Stunned by the song’s clarity, the  Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist listened alongside bandmate Anthony Kiedis  and producer Rick Rubin while Young showcased the power of Pono, his  high-resolution music service designed to confront the compressed audio  inferiority that MP3s offer.

Beginning next year, Pono will release a line of portable players, a  music-download service and digital-to-analog conversion technology intended to  present songs as they first sound during studio recording sessions. In his book  out this week, Waging Heavy Peace, Young writes that Pono will help  unite record companies with cloud storage “to save the sound of music.” As Flea  raves to Rolling Stone, “It’s not like some vague thing that you need  dogs’ ears to hear. It’s a drastic difference.”

Pono’s preservation of the fuller, analog sound already has the ear of the  Big Three record labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony  Music. WMG – home to artists including Muse, the Black Keys, Common and Jill  Scott – has converted its library of 8,000 album titles to high-resolution,  192kHz/24-bit sound. It was a process completed prior to the company’s  partnership with Young’s Pono project last year, said Craig Kallman, chairman  and chief executive of Atlantic Records.

In mid-2011, Kallman invested with Young and helped assemble a Pono team that  included representatives from audio giants Meridian and Dolby, according to  insiders. Once WMG signed on, Kallman said that he and Young approached UMG CEO  Lucian Grainge and Sony Music CEO Doug Morris about remastering their catalogs  for Pono distribution. Neither UMG nor Sony officially acknowledged those  conversations.

“This has to be an industry-wide solution. This is not about competing – this  is about us being proactive,” Kallman tells Rolling Stone. “This is all  about purely the opportunity to bring the technology to the table.”

The title of Waging Heavy Peace refers to the response that Young  gave a friend who questioned whether the singer-songwriter was declaring war on  Apple with his new service.

“I have consistently reached out to try to assist Apple with true audio  quality, and I have even shared my high-resolution masters with them,” Young  writes, adding that he traded emails and phone calls with Steve Jobs about Pono  before the tech king’s death last October. Apple declined to comment on whether  a collaborative or competitive relationship with Pono exists.

Apple’s Mastered for iTunes program, which launched last year with the  release of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ I’m With You, requires mastering  engineers to provide audio quality based on a listener’s environment – such as a  car, a flight or a club. Those dissatisfied with Apple’s AAC format argue that  it still represents a fraction of the high-resolution options that Pono promises  to deliver. Engineers have debated the value of sound quality for  years.

In early June 2011, after filing a handful of trademarks for his cloud-based  service idea, Young traveled to the Bonnaroo Festival to perform with Buffalo  Springfield. While he was there, he invited fellow musicians into his Cadillac  for a Pono demo, including members of Mumford & Sons and My Morning Jacket,  and videotaped their reactions for a potential marketing campaign.

“Neil’s premise is cool, and I think it’s exciting as a traveling musician,”  My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James tells Rolling Stone. However, he  adds a caveat: “I think that’s somewhere that he has to be careful: I’ve already  bought Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ a lot of times. Do I have to buy it  again?”

While Young acknowledges in his book that existing digital purchases will  play on Pono devices, he points out that his service “will force iTunes to be  better and to improve quality at a faster pace.”

“His reasons are so not based in commerce, and based in just the desire for  people to really feel the uplifting spirit of music,” Flea said in defense of  Young. “MP3s suck. It’s just a shadow of the music.”


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