Friday, 14 August 2009

“Harvest” by NEIL YOUNG (August 2009 Reprise/Neil Young Archives HDCD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Keeps Me Searching For A Heart Of Gold..."

As we all know Neil Young has famously resisted the remastered reissue of his huge catalogue on CD because of what he feels is the formats less than stellar representation of analogue tapes' 'original sound'. And almost a full 20 years after 1989's first issue of Harvest on a dullard CD - it looks like the guy is having the last laugh - because this meticulously prepared tape transfer is GLORIOUS. It really is.

First to the details - this June 2009 Remaster is Disc 4 of 4 in his NYA – ORS Reissue Series (Neil Young Archives - Original Release Series). "Harvest" by NEIL YOUNG on Reprise 9362-49789-9 (Barcode 093624978992) is a straightforward CD Reissue of the original 1971 album on Reprise Records and carries the HDCD code on the label and rear inlay (High Density Compact Disc) – its total playing time is 37:47 minutes.

Until now 2004's "Greatest Hits" set was the only real indication of just how good the album 'could' sound (it offered us three Harvest tracks remastered into HDCD sound quality). And outside of the DVD Audio release (which few people have) - this is the first time the 'entire' album has been given a sonic upgrade. The Audio Tape Restoration and Analog-To-HDCD Digital Transfer of the Original Master Tapes was carried out by JOHN NOWLAND (24-Bit 176 KHZ) with the Editing and Mastering done by TIM MULLIGAN - and they've done a stunning job.

1. Out On The Weekend [Side 1]
2. Harvest
3. A Man Needs A Maid
4. Heart Of Gold
5. Are You Ready For The Country
6. Old Man [Side 2]
7. There's A World
8. Alabama
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th solo album "Harvest" - released February 1972 on Reprise Records MS 2032 in the USA and Reprise Records K 54005 in the UK (it went to Number 1 in both countries and many others around the world).

The inlay faithfully reproduces the foldout lyric sheet in the same earthy textured paper that the matching album cover had (a sort of first for recycling way back then) and the print isn't cramped either - it's very readable. In fact the booklet in "Harvest" is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of all 4 releases.

And as these are the first four albums in a long reissue campaign - to identify them from the old CDs, the upper part of the outer spine has his new NYA OSR logo at the top and an 'issue' number beneath - D1, D2, D3, D4...and on upwards of course.

However, the big and obvious disappointment is the complete lack of musical extras or any new info in the booklet; they're in "The Archives Vol.1 1963-1972" box set that's still sitting in shop windows at varying extortionate prices. Still - at mid price - this remaster of "Harvest" is great value for money and with this hugely upgraded sound - it makes you focus on the music as is and not anything else.

Some have complained that the sound is a little underwhelming after all the hype that has preceded these releases - I don't think that at all. The danger in remastering would be the cranking of everything, ultra-treble the lot - but I'm hearing ALL the instruments on this carefully prepared transfer - especially the bass and drums which now have a clarity that is so sweet rather than flashy. The sound is very subtle - there's no brashness, very little hiss and when the muscle of the remaster does kick in - like the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra on "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's A World" - it's really BEAUTIFUL. The music is just 'there' in your speakers all of a sudden.

I suspect for many fans, rehearing this album and the other 3 will be like revisiting old friends and finding something new - thrilling to them once again. I'm onto "After The Gold Rush" as I write - it's impressive stuff - it really is - beautiful reproduction too.

The gold sticker on the jewel case of each of these issues states - "Because Sound Matters" - and although it took him a few decades, on the strength of this reissue, I think Rock's great curmudgeon was right to wait to get it right...which in many respects is the ultimate nod to his fans.

Highly recommended.

PS: I've also reviewed "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" (1968), "Neil Young" (1969) and "After The Gold Rush" (1970) in this Series and each is just as good sound-wise... 

And I've also reviewed the 1977 3LP retrospective set "Decade" with Previously Unreleased tracks. It's now been reissued 2017 in the NYA Series onto 2CDs and comes with Card Sleeve Repro Artwork (see reviews)...

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