May 12, 2006

Neil Young: Living With War

young.war.jpgNot too long ago - in April, as a matter of fact - Neil Young surprised his record company by announcing he'd gathered a choir and some musicians together and recorded a new album worth of songs. In two weeks. Without missing a beat, Reprise, his record company, agreed to release it. Living With War hit shelves this past Tuesday.

Neil Young's discography is something of a mixed bag. His pseudo-country releases drive me nuts (as in, I can't stand them). His more aggressive albums usually leave me cold. His voice almost always sucks. Yet, there's something I really like about Neil Young. He has written truly incredible songs, proved himself to be a maverick, and supported some amazing causes. And his voice, well, there's just something about it that sounds so sincere. Young is nothing if not sincere here.

Be forewarned. Living With War breaks no new musical ground. It was recorded quickly and it shows. The production is basic. The musicianship, while relatively strong, is raw and unrefined. There are a few moments when a musician or producer might have stopped, backed up the tape and taken a second shot. But Living With War isn't really about the music, it's about the message. Young is pissed and with song titles like Shock And Awe, Lookin' For A Leader, and Let's Impeach The President, the reasons should be pretty clear. You can read the lyrics online if you have any doubts. Rest assured, however, that the price of the album is justified by Young's rendition of America The Beautiful, complete with backing by a 100-member choir.

Living With War is a modern-day musical protest brought to you by one of rock's most influential, and unique, voices. The strength of the music doesn't match the venom of the message but Young's heart is in the right place. Should you buy it? If you're a fan, sure. If you support his point of view, definitely. And how great would it be, what kind of message would it send, if this album charted?

Posted by Chris at May 12, 2006 07:37 PM

It is getting some play...
It would be cool if it charted and moved people out of apathy!

Posted by: Gypsy at May 12, 2006 08:48 PM

Wow. How awesome that he's not just sitting back, complaining. I don't tend to like his music, but I just might buy this out of a feeling of support.

Posted by: candace at May 12, 2006 08:51 PM

I just started listening to this today (online free stream) and I am with you on all of the above counts. I will be so pleased if it charts! I am a fan of Neil Young for the same reason as you. Sincerity. I am totally going to buy it. The only true activism anymore seems to be through our wallets anyway. We have more power than we think we do. I might even buy two!

Posted by: Ms. Q at May 12, 2006 08:55 PM

I too have mixed feelings about Neil Young but for all I've heard about this new album I think I may just have to pick this one up...

Thanks for the review.

Posted by: Nat at May 12, 2006 09:10 PM

He may have put the album together quickly but it's been on his mind for a while. I saw him at Farm Aid in Sept. 04 and he warned, "I'm going to be putting an album out that may piss off some of my fans, but that's not going to stop me from saying what I need to say."

I look forward to hearing the album for myself!

Posted by: Bayou at May 12, 2006 09:13 PM

I've listen to this album a couple of times in the last week or two, since it's been streaming at his website. It's very likely that I will buy it, because I kind of like the music, and I really like the message. Even though I don't like everything that Neil Young puts out, this is definitely OK.

Posted by: Jen at May 12, 2006 10:44 PM

I remember when "Ohio" came out and what a difference it made back then. Maybe this will help accomplish the same thing.

Guess I'm going to have to break down and spend some money. Neil has been back and forth with this Administration but he finally seems to have his head on straight.

Posted by: ann adams at May 12, 2006 10:50 PM

Man, Canadians are awesome. ;)

Posted by: Stacey at May 12, 2006 10:51 PM

I love Neil Young for many reasons. Aside from the aformentioned sincerity factor, his song "Piece of Crap" is another reason I'm a fan: it makes me laugh!
I'll be buying this one too.
And Stacey, ditto on "Canadians are awesome," eh?

Posted by: Kristina at May 13, 2006 05:50 AM

Yep, he's Canadian.

(Every Canadian reading this blog will probably remind you of that - we have to claim our celebrities whenever we can as we live in perpetual fear of Americans taking credit for stuff that's OURS.)

Posted by: s@bd at May 13, 2006 10:04 AM

That's exactly why I mentioned it.

Oh, and we're awesome. ;)

Posted by: Stacey at May 13, 2006 03:28 PM

We just bought Neils two new cds Priarie Wind and Living with War and I can't tell you how moved I have been by both. I have been crying while listening to the words.

Neil keep on using your words and talent to get out what alot of people feel but can't it out. I wish I could do more to help other people in the world but it takes all we have just to keep our family together.

Just keep it up Neil as long as you can you have thousands of people behind you.

Posted by: Debby at May 13, 2006 04:34 PM

Yup. Canadians rock. :) heh. Apparently, you have a lot of us around here.

Posted by: Heather at May 13, 2006 06:19 PM

I would love for this album to chart. Love Neil Young. Saw him at the Stark Club in Dallas YEARS ago. He's a good guy and a great musician.

Posted by: wordgirl at May 13, 2006 09:31 PM

Dude. One word. Powderfinger. And lest we forget, he wrote a nice little tune about Dubya's old man a few years back - "Rockin' In The Free World" - that is even more relevant today.

I was apathetic about Neil until I saw him a few years ago; Beck opened for him. He did a mix of his country stuff and his hard stuff, and I was converted.

Posted by: Jason at May 14, 2006 11:48 PM

I have to say, your review was so convincing that I am seriously considering going out and buying that cd. Do you know that last time I bought a cd? Neither do I, but it's been a looooong time. I hope it really is that good :)

Posted by: Angie at May 15, 2006 02:56 AM