I still can't get enough the Brown album or King Harvest Has Surely Come. The Allmusic review is a good read.
Ironically, "King Harvest," a song chronicling the labor conflicts of farmers during the Depression -- a subject rich in American history and perfectly fitted to the the Band's roots revivalist aesthetic -- was recorded in a rented house owned by none other than Sammy Davis Jr., amongst the glitz of Hollywood. But according to singer and drummer Levon Helm, "It was the last thing we cut in California and it was the magical feeling of "King Harvest" that pulled us through. It was like: there, that's the Band." The last track from the group's second self-titled album is an intricately arranged, yet well-balanced recording, where no one instrument is allowed to dominate the sound and the sum of each part seamlessly adds to the whole. The verses seem to stumble along in the lurching rhythms of Helm's dead-slap drum sound, with counter-accents from Garth Hudson's organ and Robbie Roberston's wiry guitar slithering amongst them. Richard Manuel takes the lead vocal, singing with the increased desperation of the farmer's plight: "Dry summer, then comes fall/Which I depend on most of all/Hey, rainmaker, can't you hear my call?/Please let these crops grow tall/Long enough I've been up on skid row/And it's plain to see, I've nothin' to show/I'm glad to pay those union dues/Just don't judge me by my shoes." The song evokes powerful images of sharecroppers and migrant workers struggling to survive of the Dust Bowl era of the '30s. Roberston says that at the time he was immersed in the novels of John Steinbeck (his The Grapes of Wrath most immediately coming to mind), at one time claiming, "It's just a character study in a time period. At the beginning, when unions came in, they were a saving grace, a way of fighting the big money people." The choruses are held back in a sort of rhythmic suspension, creating a controlled hush from which Helm and Manuel harmonize beautifully optimistic images of the coming harvest: "Scarecrow and a yellow moon/And pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town/King Harvest will surly come." It is no small statement when acclaimed music critic Greil Marcus, when commenting on a song from perhaps the Band's strongest collection of material, posited, "To me, it is the most important song on the album, and while a handful of the Band's songs might equal it, none have surpassed it. "