I've been a miner for a heart of gold....
Released February 1972
After the demise of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Neil Young continued the contemporary trend for country rock with this, his most popular album. Considered a classic by so many, I am not sure it quite deserves that accolade. That said, of its genre, it is pretty good, let's be honest. However, "Deja Vu" by CSNY is more than its equal, as are albums by The Band or even America from the same period. There is something adventurous in a lot of its material, though, that makes it a bit more special.
1. Out On The Weekend
3. A Man Needs A Maid
4. Heart Of Gold
5. Are You Ready For The Country?
6. Old Man
7. There's A World
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
The album begins with the resonant, Dylanesque "Out On The Weekend", with its huge drum sound and Young's confident vocal. The title track is an appealing slice of country rock, while the Band-esque, plaintive "A Man Needs a Maid" is Young singing against a piano and strings backing. I have always had a bit of a problem with Young's voice on tracks like this. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but there you go. Quality songs like this would be considerably enhanced by a better voice. However, Young's voice gives them their plaintive quality, it can be successfully argued. "Heart Of Gold" is the album's best-known track. I like Young's voice on this one, and love the song too. It is packed full of atmosphere.
"Are You Ready For The Country?" is one of the album's rockiest tracks and, despite its folky verses, "Old Man" has some powerful passages in the chorus refrains. Again I find it very Band-influenced. It is another most evocative number. "There's A World", rather surprisingly, sees Young accompanied by The London Symphony Orchestra, and, this time unsurprisingly, the track is over-orchestrated. Personally, I would prefer it without the huge sweeping string sound.
"Alabama" is another rock number, with some excellent guitar. It was claimed to be the actual song Lynyrd Skynyrd took umbrage over, inspiring them to write "Sweet Home Alabama", as opposed to "Southern Man". "The Needle And The Damage Done" is an acoustic lament for music's drug addiction victims. It is very CSNY in its feel. The final track, the lengthy "Words (Between The Lines Of Age)" is excellent. A track that varies in mood and tempo and styles - orchestrated, rock, reflective, powerful. Possibly the best track on the album. Yes, this is a fine album, undoubtedly a leader in its country rock genre and it has something that raises it above just an average album, but I still don't feel it is an absolute classic.