You’ve got to hand it to Neil Young. The man definitely defies convention. For some four decades now, he has made a career of doing the unexpected. Where many other artists – especially those of Young’s generation who have endured the way he has – often have chosen the path of least commercial resistance, he has consistently followed his artistic instincts.
Never one to simply settle for “whatever works,” Neil Young more often opts for what feels right in an artistic sense. As a result, his career has been one of alternating commercial peaks and valleys.
Neil Young’s artistic muse has led him to create a body of work over the years that stands out as much for its often bizarre turns of style as it does for the great songs he is best known for — from “Heart of Gold” to “Rockin’ In The Free World”.
In the seventies, this meant following up his “commercial breakthrough” album Harvest, with the darkness and desolation that permeates such personal work as On The Beach, and the only much later to be appreciated Tonight’s the Night.
In the eighties, it meant releasing a series of albums so stylistically schizophrenic — from syntho pop to rockabilly — that his label at the time, Geffen Records, first begged the artist to make a “Neil Young” album. Then they finally sued him for breach of contract, citing failure to deliver a commercial release. Neil countersued and eventually returned to his original label, Reprise Records.
Now it appears Neil Young is preparing once again to throw one of his trademark artistic curveballs. Where, on Harvest Moon, Neil Young sang “No one wins, it’s a “War of Man,” on the upcoming Living With War, he directs his anger at the “Man of War.”
Less than a year after the release of the quiet, reflective songs of his most recent album Prairie Wind – an album released in the wake of both his father’s passing and his own brush with death after a brain aneurysm – Neil Young is about to release a heavy metal protest record.
The news, first reported early Friday morning on numerous Internet blogs (most notably by our good friends over at Thrasher’s Wheat), and since confirmed by Neil Young’s Official Site, is that Neil’s new album, is being described this way:
A power trio with trumpet and 100 voices…A metal version of Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan…folk metal protest.
This comes from the artist himself.
What seems to be sure is that the upcoming (no confirmed release date yet) Living With War is anti-war, anti-Bush, and very, very loud. The album is said to have been recorded earlier this month over three days with a core group of musicians consisting of Young himself on guitar and vocals; Rick Rosas on bass; and Chad Cromwell on drums.
And, as noted above, this is a power trio with both a trumpet player and a 100-voice choir.
The early reports about the album are intriguing to say the least. One track, rumored to be titled “Impeach The President” is said to feature the aforementioned 100-voice choir, who sing “let’s impeach the president for lyin’,” as well as a rap featuring Bush’s voice in front of the same choir chanting “Flip/Flop”.
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who most recently directed Neil Young’s Heart of Gold documentary movie, describing the track to Harp Magazine, said:
It is a brilliant electric assault, accompanied by a 100-voice choir, on Bush and the war in Iraq…Truly mind blowing. Will be in stores soon.
Here is a sample of the lyrics being scrolled on Neil Young’s website:
“I join the multitudes,
I raise my hand In peace,
I will never bow to the laws,
Of The Thought Police”
“I’m living with WAR everyday
I’m living with WAR in my heart everyday,
I’m living with WAR right now.”
Neil Young has often followed his louder records with quiet ones, and vice versa. Comes A Time was followed by Rust Never Sleeps; Ragged Glory by Harvest Moon. Young himself most recently hinted that his next direction may be a loud one when he keynoted the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conclave in Austin, Texas about a month ago.
Hopefully, this one will be heard clear to the White Noise. One thing is for sure…Ol’ Black is back… and this is going to get good.