So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.
Believe me, a Neil Young record with dull guitars is not worth playing, owning or writing about. You won’t find one on our site.
But there’s one very special quality that this recording has that few of his others do: lovely female vocal harmonies. Nicolette Larson is all over this record, adding an extra layer of mellow magic to the proceedings. Maybe it’s the woman’s touch that makes this album so relaxed and heartfelt. Neil is completely and utterly in the zone here, so whatever put him in that special state of mind is fine by me. (To quote Mr. Young himself, A Man Needs a Maid.)
As for the music, all of side one is wonderful from start to finish; I wouldn’t change a note. Side two is not as strong musically, but the sound can be every bit as good if you’ve got the right pressing, that’s for sure.
This superb Demo Disc has been overlooked by the audiophile press for thirty years, just another example, if we needed one, of how out of touch audiophile reviewers are and always have been. The best sounding Neil Young records — just look in our Hot Stamper listings to find them — have Demo Disc sound to beat the band. I defy anyone to play me a better sounding record than Zuma or Gold Rush. Analog doesn’t get any more magical. And the best copies of Comes a Time are right up there with the best recordings in Neil’s catalog. That’s saying a lot.
On the best copies all the Demo Disc qualities are here: breathy vocals with solid body; huge amounts of ambience; super-transparency; dynamics; note-like punchy bass — the list goes on and on.
A Lucky Find
We got into this shootout the way we’ve gotten into so many over the years. A few months back I just happened to pick up a clean copy of Comes a Time for cheap at a used record store and figured I’d drop the needle on it and see what happened. What happened was that sweetly tubey magical sounds started emanating from the speakers, better sounds than I had ever associated with these songs. That set us off on a buying frenzy, picking up copies wherever we could find them, preparation for the big shootout that was sure to come.
And it did! These superb pressings are the result. Take one home. Then you can put Comes A Time on your list of All Time Best Sounding Rock Records.
The All Music Guide is right on the money with their four and a half star assessment below. If side two’s music were a tad better, this album would deserve five stars. We also wholeheartedly agree that this is the True Successor to Harvest, and would add that it’s the only Neil Young album to merit that distinction. To be blunt about it, Harvest Moon is no Comes a Time. Not even close.