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CD Review: Neil Young – Living With War

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Neil Young might be the godfather of grunge, but he also may very well be the last of the old hippies — and I mean that in the most favorable way possible. In a career spanning 40 years, he has never wavered from the notion that music can, in fact, change the world, and he’s never been overly concerned about what rewards, or lack thereof, he might reap in the process.

If he had never sold a record, it wouldn’t have mattered to him — he makes music because he absolutely must make music. He’s in love with that magic three-chord progression and the power it can unleash. Count on it — had fortune looked on him differently, he would still be found in a bar somewhere playing that guitar and singing that song he dragged up from somewhere in his heart.

On Living With War, Young sings from the deepest parts of his heart, offering no apologies about his feelings toward the current turmoil in America, particularly in regards to the war in Iraq. It would be easy to dismiss this work as a blistering indictment of the Bush Administration’s handling of the war, but it is much more than that. While much as been made of “Let’s Impeach the President” — and much of that out of context — Living With War works on several levels.

While Young is by no means a fan of Bush, he points out in “The Restless Consumer” that we sort of brought this debacle on ourselves through our relentless pursuit of the next fad. In “Living With War,” he seems almost resigned to the world we have created, and in “After the Garden,” he serves up an almost post-apocalyptic vision of how fruitless our current quests are.

The fact that Living With War was recorded in three weeks is a testament to the power of rock and roll, and the immediacy of the medium. This is not a soft, country-tinged work, as has been much of Young’s recent work. Rather, Living With War is balls to the wall guitar, bass and drums–in short, the sound of protest in 2006.

Not unlike the sound of protest in in 1972. Different war, but the same Neil Young.

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About Ray Ellis

  • Enjoyed listening to Neil Young’s Living With War online. It’s a great thing for him to do & not a moment too soon. Neil’s always best winging it, & these arrangements are loose indeed, likely few “classics” here, but they rock hard & frequently poetically & they solidly if mostly unpoetically hit their lyrical targets & in sum do what they’re supposed to do. Combined with Springsteen’s surprisingly good Pete Seeger album (few were more dubious than I about the project), which accents the side of folk music I do like – its playful & even enigmatic qualities, performed with a wide-textured ensemble, it’s been a good week for geezer rock & “protest” music. “Froggie Went A-Courtin'” is one of my all-time favs. Elvis & Bob Dylan love it, too.

    Froggie went a – courtin and he did ride, uh huh.
    Froggie went a – courtin and he did ride, uh huh.
    Froggie went a – courtin and he did ride,
    Sword and pistol by his side, un huh, uh huh.

    Well he rode down to Miss Mouse’s door, uh huh.
    Where he had often been before, uh huh.

    He took Miss Mousie on his knee, uh huh.
    Said “Miss Mousie will you marry me?” uh huh.

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