Turn That Noise Down - Neil Young

Harvest Moon cover art - Neil Young outside in black and white silhouette

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan remembers Harvest Moon...

I never really listened to much Neil Young growing up. His work, for me, was synonymous with angry American protest songs that I didn’t understand on subjects that weren’t really relevant to me in the rural wilds of Scotland. He was part of the sixties campaign generation, all placards and patchouli oil, and, in a word, I thought he was “old”. Until…

Until I heard the single most beautiful country music album in the world ever. In 1992, Neil Young released Harvest Moon and I just adored it. I don’t know why but, listening to it at the time, it just made me happy and it still does just as much today.

There was a lot of talk at the time about how this record was “a sequel” to his 1972 album Harvest but, other than the similarity in title, I can’t see it. In fact, I remember thinking that this new album really couldn’t have been any more different from the Neil Young tracks of twenty years before. The songs on Harvest Moon weren’t antagonistic or challenging, they all did as you wanted them to, the melodies were mellowed and the jagged edge of protest in the lyrics had been all but brushed away by a feeling of comfort and nostalgia. His signature falsetto vocal style too had softened, with the darkness and anger of his seventies protest songs mostly gone, replaced by something much more positive, appreciative and filled with a gratitude for what one already had rather than the need to fight for what one had not. Yes, there is still a hint of righteous anti-war protest in the likes of War of Man but that is beautifully balanced by the playful pokes at pop culture in From Hank to Hendrix, the descriptive beauty of Unknown Legend, which for me is the aural equivalent of an Edward Hopper painting, and the wishful wistfulness of You and Me.

Now that I too am “old”, I’ve tried going back and listening to past, and future, Neil Young albums to see if they resonated any better. They don't. I just don’t “get” them, I think because I don’t get him. But this album, this one Neil Young album out of fifty plus years of his music … this I get.

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