In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I’m starting to not hate Neil Young’s solo music.”
When I wrote about Neil Young’s seminal 1972 album Harvest, I said, “I want to feel the same way about Neil Young’s music that so many other people do. But I think he’s gonna end up in the same place for me as Lou Reid. It’s not them, it’s me.” And I meant it. I want to like Neil Young, I want to get Neil Young. And I feel like this current binge of Young’s other bands, side projects and related bands has made me much more prepared for solo Young. And what better choice to give him another crack, than Harvest’s spiritual sequel, Harvest Moon.
Straight away, Unknown Legend makes me hopeful for this era Neil Young. In the 20 years between records, his voice had aged in a way that takes some of the edge of his shrill delivery from the 70s. And as always, I like him a lot more when there’s a bit more substance to his backing ensemble. Drums, bass, slide guitar, back up vocals. For me, Neil Young within a band always beats Neil Young in isolation.
From Hank to Hendrix is a song title almost custom built to get my attention. Regardless of how I personally feel about a lot of Neil Young’s output, there’s no denying his importance in the world of music. So the idea of one luminary, singing about two others and the influence they had on him, is immediately intriguing. And when combined with Unknown Legend, it points to Harvest Moon having a much stronger country influence than the folkie shit of Harvest. Which is also a welcome change.
With its lyrical references to an old man, and a very similar musical feel, You and Me should infuriate me as much as Old Man from Harvest did. But again, the aging in Young’s voice makes this approach on Harvest Moon more than just tolerable, it makes it really great. With it’s confident, laid back swagger, the coolness of the sound of War of Man takes enough away from the ham fisted lyrical content to make it more than bearable.
Combining a banjo pluckin’, country twang, with dead hound dog subject matter, Old King is a nostalgic throwback that really works. Maybe Young’s working on a much deeper level than I’m noticing, but I don’t care. I love the literal, surface level stuff about this song.
Well, it’s been a big week. I’ve gone from assuming I hate Crosby, Stills and Nash without ever knowingly hearing a single note. And I’ve gone from having no idea what makes people revere Neil Young so much, based on how underwhelmed I was by possibly his most respected album. Here I am, after five days of light digging and I’m on board with Buffalo Springfield, way on board with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and starting to not hate Neil Young’s solo music.