This discography analysis is written by contributer JT of Perth, Australia (follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter).
Harvest Moon (1992) Spotify
1) 'Unknown Legend' - Decent start to the album. The sound of the song isn't what I'd call great, however. It's dangerously veering back to Old Ways territory. Lucky for the song that it avoids this by being a very good song. A very visual song - and if you've seen the Michael Richards/Jeff Daniels 'film' Trial and Error (I think at least one other person did), you'll know that it's easily borrowed to create an interesting plot point, however this song isn't a great one. Probably very easy to play, which is why Neil does so often (105 times so far), but not something I play back too often. 7.0
2) 'From Hank to Hendrix' - Better. I would've thought I could do without the James Taylor-ness of the song, but he actually adds a bit to the chorus, his vocals lifting it up another notch. A simple love song (inasmuch as it's about someone wishing that he and his wife weren't splitting), something which Neil isn't particularly known for, but I'm not saying that's a bad thing. In fact, this is one of the best songs on the album. 8.0
3) 'You and Me' - Now there's that Harvest sound, well actually the guitar on here sounds like a sequel to 'Goin' Back' from Comes a Time, while the vocal melody borrows more than a little bit from 'Old Man', but neither of those are bad things at all. I think Neil's vocals are a bit too high in the mix, a bit too full - but I'm nitpicking. Beautiful song. 8.5
4) 'Harvest Moon' - Yeah, everyone knows this song. Even people who don't know a thing about Neil Young seemingly know this song and think that he's so great because of it. I don't know why, but that just bugs me. Sure it's a good song, but play it back to back with any number of other songs and it suffers in comparison. I guess I'm being hard on the song, because it does have its charms (to say the least). Neil's delivery is great, and unlike 'You and Me', the vocals are just right. Melodically the song is fantastic, but there's just something it's missing (although it's definitely not missing another broom). Oh yeah - I hate the video for the song as well. So despite the fact I despise many aspects of the song (or things to do with the song), I can still give this a... 7.5
5) 'War of Man' - Again with the 'Goin' Back' comparisons! Seriously, was that one song the inspiration for half the album?? Not that it matters, another good song, but I'm just getting the feeling that this album, despite the good songs, isn't a very good album (if you catch my drift). Not that it's the fault of the songs - because they're good, but I'm not getting any feeling (good or otherwise) from this. But back to the song, good beat throughout, well played, well sung. It's just... I don't know - missing something. 6.5
6) 'One of These Days' - Here's where things start to go downhill. "One of these days I'm going to sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I've known". Is there anyone else that thinks Neil would never do that - never in a million years? And that's the problem of the song, it doesn't feel like a Neil Young song. It feels like Neil Young writing a song in the vein of another song and therefore losing a hell of a lot in the process. If this was sung by someone else, I'd probably like it a lot more. But with Neil, you've been taught to expect more, to have higher expectations. If he doesn't meet those expectations, well he'll crash and burn, but he'll rarely disappoint. This song sucks the life out of you. 5.0
7) 'Such a Woman' - Oh that's right - this is the Nitzsche song. I should like this more, after all - the collaboration of the two has given us two masterpieces ('Expecting to Fly' and 'A Man Needs a Maid'), but then again, it also gave us 'There's a World', and I'm still trying to forget that. So what's good about this song? Well - Jack Nitzsche's strings soar, but the song itself isn't a masterpiece. It isn't even great. But man, those strings. I could listen to the song just for those. 6.5
8) 'Old King' - Banjo song about his dog? Only on very rare occasions can you say that Neil's wasting your time, even on the bad albums. Here, ehe does just that. Next please. 4.0
9) 'Dreamin' Man' - I've hated this song, I've liked this song - but I've never loved it and I never will. Probably in the same league of the title track, if not just a rung below. Would be higher if not for that main acoustic guitar riff that shows up all the way through. Definitely not a fan of that! 7.0
10) 'Natural Beauty' - Masterpiece #34. Wow - this was unexpected. This is so good, that I'm tempted to call it the best Neil Young song since Rust Never Sleeps and that nothing since has touched it. Just listen to that guitar tone! That knocks me out for starters. Also, more than 'Like an Inca' and 'Inca Queen', this song is the sequel to 'Cortez the Killer', well not so much a sequel, merely a younger brother. And in that lofty company, you'd expect it to wilt, but it doesn't - it rises and more than holds its own. I'm not one for all this environmental activism (sorry to say), but this song makes me want to think a bit harder about things, even if it isn't exactly about those things. 10.0
ALBUM RATING: 6.5
VERDICT: How to say this... not my favourite album by any stretch. Neil's at his best when he's doing something for himself, not because he thinks the audience might like it - which is what this feels like. This isn't even an implied sequel, it's a sequel in name as well. The fact that Neil set out to recreate the Harvest era so much that he got the band back together, got Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor in to do backing vocals... I don't know, it just smacks of disappointment, especially since Neil spent the best part of the seventies getting away from the fact that Harvest put him "in the middle of the road". Well, he's back there again and this time of his own choosing... and the album suffers as a result. Sure there are some great songs here, and one bona-fide genuine masterpiece, but an album of good songs does not a good album make. There's a serious lack of soul running through the majority of this album, rendering it so sterile that I'm loathed to put it on and listen all the way through. If I'm making it seem worse than it actually is, well I apologise, but even a good album can be a monumental disappointment sometimes.
Lucky Thirteen (1993) (not available on Spotify)
1) 'Sample and Hold' - 8.5
2) 'Transformer Man' - 9.0
3) 'Depression Blues' - Great song. Recorded around the time of the original Old Ways album in 1983. Wouldn't have fitted on the eventually released album (it's way too good for that), and in no way would it have fit on Everybody's Rockin'. If only Neil had found an avenue to release it with other songs of its ilk - you'd think we'd have another outstanding album on our hands. Some may not know the difference between this and the songs released on Old Ways, but it's simple. This is Neil just being Neil (albeit in a certain style), that was Neil trying to be someone else. This is brilliant. 9.0
4) 'Get Gone' - Live track from the Shocking Pinks tour - lucky for us it's much better than that implies. A throwback to late-50s rock, it works a lot better than any of the tracks on that album. You see, this is why I love Neil Young. He'll have these awesome tracks sitting there, crying to be put on an album, but he'll throw the completely disastrous 'Mystery Train' cover on there instead. Oh well, at least we got to hear it eventually. 8.0
5) 'Don't Take Your Love Away From Me' - Another live Shocking Pinks song. This one's not really Shocking Pinks material, but that's not a bad thing. More of a Blue Notes track, this one's a very different song to 'Get Gone', and is again - another previously unreleased gem. I kinda get the feeling that Neil was deliberately hoarding stuff from his label. Keeping his best songs for himself as a "fuck you" to David Geffen. Great guitar playing, raw and bluesy. In one song he manages more soul than he did in the entire 1983-85 period that we'd previously heard. 9.0
6) 'Once an Angel' - 6.5
7) 'Where is the Highway Tonight?' - 3.5
8) 'Hippie Dream' - 7.5
9) 'Pressure' - 7.0
10) 'Around the World' - 7.0
11) 'Mideast Vacation' - 8.0
12) 'Ain't it the Truth' - Live Blue Notes. Not as revelatory as the live Shocking Pinks material, but still better than a lot of the This Note's For You album. This band really did manage to cook live, it's a pity the only album they got to release was so sterile and boring. 7.5
13) 'This Note's For You' - Live version. This is what the album version should've been. Not too different (about 3 minutes longer), but there's some life here at least and Neil's guitar is truly singing. You know what? The Archives box that covers this era could very well be my most anticipated. There, I said it. 8.0
ALBUM RATING: No Rating (It's a compilation)
VERDICT: As a compilation of the Geffen years, this acts as both a good introduction and a curious interlude (much like the Geffen years themselves). There's some great songs here, and it's hard to understand how the previously unreleased tracks were just that. Just like the period, this is severely underrated.
NEXT: Ain't singin' for Pepsi, but I'll sing for MTV...