By the time of publication, Neil Young had just unveiled a new musical ecosystem, called Pono, at South by Southwest. Regardless of one’s stance on Pono’s execution, as audiophiles I hope we will applaud Mr. Young’s dedication to “rescue the art form that I’ve been practising for the past 50 years.” (Wired, 2012)
Artists want their music to be heard as they intended so it makes sense for this directive to be guided by one of the most genuinely respected and enduring musicians to emerge out of the 1960s and the man behind the best-selling album of 1972, to which CAS pays tribute this month. And as an album, with its lack of studio effects and compression, Harvest gets its message across with a purity of sound and spirit that can only be accomplished through quick and spontaneous recording, and Young not only wants us to hear this but to feel it.
Most of Harvest was recorded at Quadrafonic Studios, a converted Nashville house where Young swiftly gathered Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor (who were also in the city to perform on The Johnny Cash Show) along with some of Tennessee’s finest session musicians later dubbed The Stray Gators to lay down songs such as ‘Heart of Gold’ and ‘Old Man’. In the humble surroundings of the Barking Town Hall he recorded ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ and ‘There’s a World’ with the London Symphony Orchestra. And in keeping with his aversion to imposing formal recording studios, he finished the album in the studio on his Broken Arrow ranch. The atmosphere may have lent the album its pastoral quality but the softer tone was partially due to Young’s slipped discs, as he had to record in a back brace, physically unable to play an electric guitar.