Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Josh Mehrtens, Mild Orange – Neil Young, Harvest Moon, (1972)
No road trip of mine is complete without a start-to-finish playback of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, the successor to his mega-hit album, Harvest, released exactly 20 years later.
To me, this album is the aural representation of journeying down a long highway while it’s just you, your automobile and the pavement as the sunshine glistens and dances on the curves of your car bonnet. Your companions in the passenger seats are asleep, being gently rocked and lulled by the bumps on the tarmac and the vibrations of the engine. The sun hangs above the mountains on your horizon, and, while it sets, you find yourself winding down with the dusk, ready for that familiar worn motel bed which awaits you. Reflecting on how you’ve handled life and the relationships in it keeps you awake as headlights gradually begin passing you by as you near the outskirts of the next city that ushers your destiny in to collide with it.
Neil has evidently lived one hell of a busy life on the road touring, writing, recording, loving and experiencing many ups and downs in between and during all of these moments. In Harvest Moon you can hear a man that has been so sincerely and calmly observant along his life journey – or ‘musical ride’ as he puts it in ‘From Hank To Hendrix’.
Harvest Moon has been with me since starting my own ‘musical ride’ with Mild Orange. For some reason, I’d always had an aversion to Neil Young since my only encounters had been ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart Of Gold’ being repeatedly foisted upon me. One night out with my brother and his friends at their flat changed my relationship with Neil when someone played the title track ‘Harvest Moon’ and we all slow danced in the kitchen, grins from ear to ear, off our rockets. The next day my love affair with the entire album began.
Each time I listen back to Harvest Moon, I try to put myself in Neil’s shoes while I belt out each lyric from behind the steering wheel. Knowing that this album was released 20 years after the album that catapulted his career really gets me. Each song feels like a conscious matchup to the correlating track number on the predecessor. Despite acknowledging lessons of the road and fallouts with his band and loved ones along the way, it’s sweet knowing that most of the performers on Harvest returned on Harvest Moon. It’s also sweet hearing artists only get better as they age (Neil and the team were nearing 50 when this was made). Special shoutout to the guy that plays the broom-sweeps on track 4 (watch the video!).
Harvest Moon has made me think a lot about what kind of ‘musical ride’ I want to embark on. As Mild Orange continues to grow, I’ll keep Neil’s lessons and continual growth in mind.
I always expected
That you should see me through
I never believed in much
But I believed in you
Can we get it together
Can we still stand side by side
Can we make it last
Like a musical ride?
– From Hank To Hendrix