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Before I bought this book, I thought it would contain interesting facts and anecdotes about the recording of Neil Young's Harvest. Instead, this is basically a long-form review of Harvest, like you would read in the Rolling Stone album reviews section. It's like listening to an opinionated, but uninformed, friend talk about what he likes or dislikes about Harvest.
The author talks about what he thinks is good or bad about the songs, where Harvest belongs in the Neil Young catalogue, and how the album arose from and fit into the time of its creation. What is missing is more detail about how the album was recorded, any interesting stories about the people involved in making the album, or any real facts about the album.
The bottom line is that you won't learn anything new about Harvest by listening to this audiobook.
A minor problem is that they never play any songs or clips from songs. I suppose its a licensing thing, but its inconvenient and weird to have someone talk about music for so long, without actually hearing any of the music.
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First of all, I love the 33 1/3 series. I'm listening to them all and I hope they make 100 more. The first thing to realize is that each book has a different writer and a different narrator, so you never know what you're going to get. Some (Dylan, Stevie, Costello) are drop dead brilliant. Others (Pet Sounds) not so much, but there's not one that I wouldn't buy again and from which I haven't gleaned very valuable information.
I would give Harvest 5 stars except for two things: the narration and several really annoying bits of dumb political commentary from the author. The narrator speaks clearly, so you can understand the text - that's all it takes for me to prefer audiobook since I have no time to read, but some narrators (e.g., Costello) enhance the text greatly. This guy on Harvest sounds like he's reading it syllable by syllable, with little comprehension, to a 6-year old. It's laughably bad, but understandable at least.
As for the book itself, it does an excellent job of describing the album and reviewing Young's career and discography. My only complaint is the smug and stupid political commentary. He's trying to say that Young's songs about southern racism are silly, out-dated hippie idealism and that songwriters have no business weighing in on such things. And 33 1/3 writers do? In his defense, the book was released in '08, probably written in '07, and I'm reviewing the review in '14, after the South jumped on the SCOTUS's striking down of the Voting Rights Act to obstruct minority voting and after it's become so embarrassingly obvious that the reactionary South (and Plain States) are still living in the Dark Ages. Some things about Young are dated, but his appraisal of Alabama was prophetic. It's more than 40 years later and all you have to do is turn on the news to see that the racism of the red South is as abominable and disgraceful as it ever was. So after casting off Alabama as silly hippie fantasies about racism, he glosses over Ohio. This song hit the airwaves less than a month after the Kent State massacre - America's Tiananmen Square. That it was the most timely and powerful reaction of music to politics since The Marriage of Figaro is undeniable.
I will give the author some credit for realizing that Southern Man and Alabama are not the same song. Musically there's more difference between those two than there is among every song in the Country & Western canon.
Still, I find the authors John Roberts-esque "there is no more racism" insinuations to be deeply offensive and inappropriate in this type of book especially in light of the fact that all American music, very much including Country music, owes its very existence to African-American musical innovations.
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