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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Film Review: Neil Young's 'Harvest Time' | Variety

Neil Young's 'Harvest Time'
 (Click photo to enlarge)

Today, December 1, Neil Young's documentary film 'Harvest Time' will be screening.

Here is  a film review of Neil Young's 'Harvest Time' in Variety by Jem Aswad:

While much of the footage is fascinating, the admitted absence of a plan comes across in the final product: It’s two full hours of Young rehearsing, recording and hanging out for long stretches of time with the newly formed Stray Gators backing band, along with vignettes of him recording backing vocals with sometime-bandmates Stephen Stills and David Crosby in California and Stills and Graham Nash in New York; working up “A Man Needs a Maid” with the London Symphony Orchestra (Glyn Johns, of “Get Back” fame, appears in several scenes); giving stellar solo performances of “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”; and working through several songs with the band in the legendary barn at the ranch, surrounded by bales of hay and the dry, dry hills of Northern California, complete with grazing cows. He also performs some contemporaneous songs that didn’t make the album, like “Journey Through the Past” and “Bad Fog of Loneliness” (a 50th anniversary boxed set of the album, due Friday, includes three outtakes and Young’s fantastic 1971 solo concert for the BBC — marking a fifth 1971 solo concert release.)

Also appearing are Young’s partner at the time, actor Carrie Snodgress; musicians Jack Nitzsche (who would later take up with Snodgress and be arrested for threatening her), Tim Drummond, Ben Keith and Kenny Buttrey; managers Elliott Roberts and Ron Stone; photographer Joel Bernstein, roadie Bruce Berry (who would die of a drug overdose within a few months and be immortalized in Young’s song “Tonight’s the Night”) and others. A sobering number of them are now deceased.

We see many of the classic songs from the album come to life, with plenty of closeups on the 25-year-old, stringy-haired Young, who seems impossibly young and earnest, yet still iconic and iconoclastic. Conversely, we see the bro-chemistry between him, Crosby, Stills and Nash; and watch him interact with the unexpectedly cool conductor of a rather fussy-looking London Symphony Orchestra — a reminder of how much of the 1971 world was still, in the parlance of the era, “square.”

On that note, simply seeing the clothes — the flared jeans, patterned shirts, boots and big belt buckles — the haircuts and the attitudes is a head-spinning throwback: They’re drinking beer in the middle of the day and smoking weed out of some insane contraption (Nitzsche declines twice); at one point Young calls himself a “rich hippie,” which he probably still does. In the Nashville studio, the camera pans across a room in the Nashville studio with dark wood paneling, an electric typewriter and paper datebook on the desk and Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” playing on the radio — it just doesn’t get more peak 1971 than that. 

To wit: “I feel more free now than I’ve ever felt before,” Young says. 

“So it’s groovy, y’know, I can dig it.”

Full review of Neil Young's 'Harvest Time' @ Variety by Jem Aswad.

More on PREVIEW TRAILER: Neil Young: Harvest Time.

Neil Young in the Barn
photo by Joel Bernstein/courtesy of Gary Strobl

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At 12/01/2022 03:04:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

This review is ok, not objectively moronic. I read one last night that called Harvest "musical comfort food" (which is stupid to begin with) but can anyone honestly say that the song "Harvest" is comforting? Perhaps if one does not actually listen to the lyrics such a result is possible.

At 12/02/2022 12:44:00 AM, Blogger Muskie said...

I saw it just now, I won a ticket through record store day on Twitter, but then I had trouble getting to the theatre in -26 so I missed the beginning. It was interesting. I kept trying to think who played on the album, while they were rehearsing. The scenes with the LSO were interesting, it seems like most of the takes/mixes were slightly different than the album. Seeing it on a big screen wasn't the hugest deal with grainy square footage, but the audio is likely better than you'll get at home.

At 12/02/2022 07:00:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

I went last night, it was magnificent. The two hours flew by. Looking forward to watching again when my vinyl H50 box turns up.

It's getting a couple of reshowings in Leeds in the next two weeks and very tempted to go back again to see it on the big screen.


At 12/02/2022 10:27:00 AM, Blogger hawkeye said...

Spent two hrs in the time machine last night. Was nice. Liked how the credits rolled to the title track. John Harris with that roly-poly melody. Curious about no mention of Needle which I think was recorded live at Royce Hall. Nice to see today's Neil introduce the film. Hate to say I am preparing myself for the day.

At 12/02/2022 11:11:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

What a great night.

We were w/ some minimal Neil fans at screening who thoroughly enjoyed the unparalleled intimacy into Neil's "Ranch World". Talk about Shangri-La/Nirvana.

Ahh, northern california. You could practically smell the Redwoods in the theater.

how could this sit unreleased for 50 years?

Everyone in theater burst into laughter when the DJ asked Neil when the film would be in theaters.

At 12/02/2022 11:19:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

btw, the Variety review linked above criticizes film as too lengthy.

wtf. it was less than 2 hours? It was raw footage in the studio.

priceless stuff. an inside view of a creative peak.

That Beatles film was what 8 hours?? Seemed like folks adored watching Paul and John sit around the studio noodling about. you either like to watch creative geniuses create . or not.

here's a reviewer who gets it.

At 12/02/2022 01:56:00 PM, Blogger RHurley said...

"That Beatles film was what 8 hours?? Seemed like folks adored watching Paul and John sit around the studio noodling about. you either like to watch creative geniuses create . or not."

... i know, right?

i spent some early years of life in the last century working behind the board in a small recording studio in New England and that's exactly what it's like

whether it's the Beatles, Neil or the local combo cutting demo

and i'll still watch them now


At 12/02/2022 04:13:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I do not think there is a theatre in this worthless state that is showing the movie.

At 12/02/2022 04:24:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ rhurley - thanks for that. Like most of life, you're into the intricacies of creativity or you're not.

no doubt, Harvest Time wasn't for everyone, but what is? Or if it is for everyone, why bother.

@ Abner - bummer. or as Neil would say, that's a drag, man.

Harvest Time is really a love letter for all of us diehards. Neil looked so happy in the intro clip he could barely be contained.

We posted this on the Variety review complaining about film too long.

"Saw Harvest Time last night with some rustie grains buddies. The time just flew by. After the film, someone said how long was that? Everyone in theater (all 7 of us) said "NOT LONG ENOUGH!" (just like Billy after Chevrolet take)"

btw, did anyone see film posters in the lobbies? we looked all over and tried to ask about posters but staff clueless, as usual.

At 12/03/2022 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

For those who are into unboxing videos, here is Neil Young doing the unboxing of Harvest 50 himself:

At 12/05/2022 08:44:00 AM, Blogger Tomatron said...

We saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse yesterday! It was a treat to see that old Super 8 footage on the big screen. There’s not a whole lot of footage of Ben Keith and the boys from way back in the day, so that was the highlight for me. Too bad there wasn’t anything from the initial Nashville session, but I guess Neil was expecting Johnny Cash would’ve gotten everything on film. That weekend after the taping was spur of the moment. The LSO segments were amazing though. The conductor (David Measham I think?) did an excellent job linking Neil’s timing on the piano to the orchestra, and name dropped The Pink Floyd (presumably on the basis of their Atom Heart Mother from the previous year). The documentary does bounce around quite a bit and includes plenty of early ranch clips and fuzzy heads with bloodshot eyeballs.

At 12/05/2022 09:29:00 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Went to the afternoon showing yesterday of "Harvest Time." I thought it was great and was surprised how quickly it went. Was thinking the film was heading to Nashville toward the end but then it didn't go there.

Did the idea to film start after Johnny Cash show and recording that night with Linda and James?

Guess this HQ recording of the Johnny Cash show appearance linked below could be considered an outtake of the movie but it also when the birth of the "Harvest" sessions, right? Did the Stray Gators first get together on February 6, 1971?

The Johnny Cash Show aired on February 17th, 1971 but was recorded ten days earlier on the 7th in Nashville according to Sugar Mountain. In the NYA files it says "Old Man" and "Bad Fog of Loneliness" were recorded on the 6th with James/Linda on both, "Dance, Dance, Dance" recorded on the 7th, "Heart of Gold" was recorded on the 8th again with James/Linda. Wonder if the band did the basic tracks on the 6th and then vocal overdubs were done by James/Linda on the 8th?

Recording date:

Release date and the Neil Young segment:

Loved all the piano close-ups with Jack and Neil in the movie. Wish they would have interviewed the LSO musicians as they left the session to see what they thought of the song and the rich hippie who played with them.

While watching the movie was thinking I wish they would have done a concert film, like Red Rocks, for the Grey Riders with Hargus "Pig" Robbins. Anyone who saw that tour knows what I'm talking about. Hargus didn't take the emotional level of songs up just a notch, it was several notches, to the point that Neil hasn't released the good stuff yet he did with him. Having seen the Grey Riders three weeks before the first Farm Aid I was ticked that they cut away from the show for "This Old House." What a great version of the song that got kind of ruined by CSNY.

Whenever I talked with Neil Young one to one he always looked directly unflinchingly into my eyes the whole time while giving thoughtful answers. It was interesting what he said disliking fame in the movie and he could see that weird vibe the way people acted and in their eyes.

At 12/05/2022 09:58:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Looking forward to viewing the film when my Harvest 50 box set arrives. It hasn't been explicitly mentioned, but I imagine/suspect that much of the filming was done for what turned into Journey Through the Past. Particularly, the radio DJ featured in the trailer is extended footage of what was shown at the beginning of JTTP.

If I'm right, *that* is the upcoming movie they're referring to. Harvest Time is essentially extra material from that period when Neil was filming everything for JTTP.

At 12/05/2022 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Forgot to disclose that I was an employee of weekly Variety from 1979 to 1992 in this thread.

Wrote this elsewhere that I should have added here...

Went Sunday afternoon in North Carolina and the 92 seat theater was also pretty full. I'd guess about 70 people of various ages. Sat in the front row so I could think about what was going on. When you sit close to the screen your eyes have to interact with what is going on so at movies it is important to sit close. Robert Altman taught me that trick over breakfast when I was a young lad during a propaganda discussion and his film work for the government on Lookout Mountain in Laural Canyon. My roommate produced an Altman film series and had guests each week. This was while I was working evenings at a hospital. I'd wake up and in the kitchen would be director Robert Altman, actor Elliott Gould or screenwriter/director Joan Tewkesbury in the midst of having a fantastic breakfast. I'd brush my teeth, grab some coffee and join in bright and early for me. Words of wisdom from the film master who warned of entrainment further back in the theater. Regrettably I didn't put what I learned from my roommate to work and have a Neil Young Festival. Man, that would have been fun...I would have had both David Briggs (LA and Nashville) one week, Joel Bernstein another, Elliott Roberts, maybe Ben Keith for the musician side, Ron Stone and maybe Elliott Mazer.

At 12/05/2022 10:53:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Jim - Thanks & CotM @

Yes, a really delightful Neil experience, made even more special by his absence from the stage for over 3 years now. I think were all pretty thrilled to see Neil these days even if its from 50 years ago.

So many highlights for us...

Neil, Stills & Nash all jamming on separate pianos in the studio
The jeep ride thru the Redwoods trees
Neil kissing Carrie delicately
Elliot telling a poor taste joke
Drummond's pump pipe scene
seeing the young L.A. Johnson recording sound

But missed Bruce Berry scene somehow? Anyone recall where BB shows up?

Well, that's entrainment for you!


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