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Living With War

Neil Young

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Album Review

In a move that deliberately echoes the rush release of "Ohio" in the wake of the Kent State shootings, Neil Young bashed out his 2006 protest record Living with War in a matter of days, sometimes recording songs the day they were written, and then seized the opportunities of the digital age by streaming the entire album on his website only weeks after it was recorded, with the official digital and CD releases trailing several days later. It's the best use yet of the instant, widespread distribution that the Web has to offer, and it also hearkens back to the days when folk music was topical, turning the news into song. But if the ballads of the 19th century were passed along gradually, growing along the way, or if the protest tunes of the folk revival of the 1950s and '60s grew in stature being performed regularly, gaining strength as singer after singer sang them, Living with War captures a specific moment in time: early 2006, when George W. Bush's approval ratings slipped to the low 30s, as discontent sowed by the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, and much more turned into a general malaise in the country (or in political shorthand, it was the moment when George W. turned into Jimmy Carter). To some, the specificity of Young's writing on Living with War will forever date it, but that's a risk with any topical folk, rock, or pop, from "We Shall Overcome" to "We Are the World" — or "Ohio," for that matter. Young is aware of this and embraces the allegedly short shelf life of his songs for Living with War by directly addressing the political turmoil in the U.S.A. in 2006 and the real human wreckage it has left behind. As such, it will function as a vivid document of its era, as much as any journalism of its time, but Living with War isn't rock-as-CNN: it's a work of art, and it's a canny one at that, with Young drawing on familiar words and music to create both historic and emotional context for his songs. It's not merely clever that "Living with War" quotes "The Star Spangled Banner," or that "Flags of Freedom" consciously reworks Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" — it helps tie Young's work to the past and gives his new work greater resonance. And nowhere is that more true than on "Let's Impeach the President" and how its melody recalls "The City of New Orleans" to help underscore what was lost in the government's bungled reaction to Katrina's devastation to the legendary American city. With a grandstanding title like that, along with its George W. soundbites, "Let's Impeach the President" is the flashiest song here, and it crystallizes what's good about the album: sure, it pulls no punches and it's angry, but it's not just ranting; it's artfully written and effective, as is Living with War as a whole. It's not perfect, but it has a vitality lacking in Young's recorded work of the last 15 years or so, and its blend of Greendale's loud, meandering guitar rock and the bittersweet mournful, aging hippie vibe of Prairie Wind is not only appealing, it's better executed than either of those good yet flawed records — and that execution not only applies to the ragged glory of the recording, but to the songs themselves. They manage to be unified in a way that Young wanted Greendale to be but didn't quite pull off, yet they also stand on their own and are, overall, more memorable than those on Prairie Wind. And that's the reason why, politics aside, Living with War stands as a very strong, effective Neil Young album that will continue to have a punch long after the George W. Bush administration has faded into the history books.

Customer Reviews

thanks neil.

it took an aging canadian living in the u.s.a. to finally express, in his music, the perverse tragedy, horror and anger so deeply felt by millions around the world. thank you neil for your passion in getting the message out there. wake up folks - thousands of innocent men, women and children have already paid the ultimate price for this staged sham of a war. wake up america and "IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT" now. share the record with your friends. people like neil young and steve earle can only do so much. the rest is up to each one of us. do your part to help get the message out - the insanity of this unjustified war must come to an end.

Living With War

This album is terrific. It harkens back to the anti-war movement of yesteryear. Neil Young and his music is timeless and needed in these days of pre-emptive war, governmental corruption and ineptitude. This album will help shake the nation out of it's coma of malaise. Vive Neil!

Neil's rage rocks!

If you like any of Neil Young's albums you will really like this one. It has a similar feel to Greendale but is much more focused. The production values are very high and he makes excellent use of a choir to give his words a populous feel. When played as an album, it takes the listener through both anger and hope. Neil alternately aims for (and hits) the listener’s head, heart and gut. The lyrics have incredible power even if they will date quickly. References to Obama, Powell and other prominent political figures give this album an immediacy that cannot / must not be ignored. ‘Shock and Awe’ ‘Let’s Impeach the President’ and ‘Looking for a Leader’ are particularly spectacular tracks placed among a full album of great cuts. Buy this album NOW!

Biography

Born: November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After Neil Young left the California folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in 1968, he slowly established himself as one of the most influential and idiosyncratic singer/songwriters of his generation. Young's body of work ranks second only to Bob Dylan in terms of depth, and he was able to sustain his critical reputation, as well as record sales, for a longer period of time than Dylan, partially because of his willfully perverse work ethic. From the beginning of his solo career in the late '60s through...
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