This song was written by Neil Young and appears as the final track on Harvest, his fourth solo album. It features his signature lyrics-from-the-heart, soulful melodies, and poetic countryside metaphors. Look for the unusual time signature of 11/8 on the interludes, alternating with the standard 4/4 for lyrics and chorus.
While "Words" itself didn't see single release, the album Harvest
charted #1 on the Billboard 200 and also on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart. By the way, the hit "Heart Of Gold
" from this album is Young's only #1 hit.
Personnel for "Words": Neil Young on lead guitar and vocals, Ben Keith on pedal steel guitar, Jack Nitzsche on piano, Tim Drummond on bass, Kenny Buttery on drums, and Stephen Stills and Graham Nash on backing vocals. Nitzsche, Keith, Drummond, and Buttrey are also collectively known as "The Stray Gators," primarily the supporting band for Neil Young but also appearing in places like Jewel's Pieces of You.
Part of the Harvest album was mixed at Neil Young's personal ranch home. He had his engineer rig speakers right and left to the house and the barn, respectively. Then Young, Crosby, and Nash would sit outside between the house and barn and listen to the playback. When asked how it was going, Neil Young might respond "More barn!"
The somewhat impenetrable lyrics of this song might be one of the examples comedian Dana Carvey has in mind when he does his parody "Every Neil Young Song You've Ever Heard," as part of his stand-up routine. Strumming an acoustic guitar, Carvey does an impression of Young's voice while singing lyrics like "secret whores with ancient vices; Lucky has the lowest prices." The parody, like all of Carvey's routines, is assumed to be done in the most affectionate spirit imaginable.
A 16-and-a-half minute version of the song is included on the Journey Through The Past album that followed up Harvest. The album was made as a soundtrack for a critically panned film Young made, also named Journey Through The Past. This longer version of the song has no substantive difference from the Harvest version. It just incorporates a longer instrumental jam.