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Living with War - "In the Beginning"

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
There's something about a tragedy, be it personal or societal, that transforms Neil Young into one of rock's truly great fighters. This album-length dissertation on the Bush administration and its war in Iraq channels the same sort of raw-nerved passion that Young mustered on "Ohio" and "Tonight's the Night" his reaction to the fatal overdose of friend and bandmate Danny Whitten. Sure, some of this disc's white-knuckled energy stems from Living with War's blindingly fast creation -- less than a month passed between the writing of the first notes and the recording of the last ones. What's more important, however, is the unfettered anger and sharply honed empathy Young ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
There's something about a tragedy, be it personal or societal, that transforms Neil Young into one of rock's truly great fighters. This album-length dissertation on the Bush administration and its war in Iraq channels the same sort of raw-nerved passion that Young mustered on "Ohio" and "Tonight's the Night" his reaction to the fatal overdose of friend and bandmate Danny Whitten. Sure, some of this disc's white-knuckled energy stems from Living with War's blindingly fast creation -- less than a month passed between the writing of the first notes and the recording of the last ones. What's more important, however, is the unfettered anger and sharply honed empathy Young displays on each of the album's pieces, most of which are awash in the trebly distortion he seizes upon when he wants to shake up his listeners. On "Shock and Awe," he uses his guitar as a battering ram to bull through a curtain of military-styled percussion -- all the better to emphasize his pokes at Bush's "mission accomplished" screeds. "Looking for a Leader," on the other hand, exudes a markedly brighter sonic tone, lending something of a silver lining to Young's laundry list of things that could be changed, providing the proper hands were on the wheel of the good ship America. Young cribs a few notes from others -- using Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" as the melodic template for "Flags of Freedom" but making up for it by name-checking his peer in the song's lyrics -- as well as from himself. He does the latter -- reviving the chord progressions of "Powderfinger" -- on "Let's Impeach the President," the song that's gotten the most notice in the mainstream press. That song's protest-folk beginnings take on epic proportions, thanks to judicious use of a 100-strong choir and a litany of pointed sound bites from President Bush, whose mangling of the truth is underscored by chants of "flip...flop." That would have been Living with War's most powerful moment, had Young not chosen to end the disc with a choral version of "America the Beautiful" that's bound to elicit both chills and cheers. Rock as social commentary has never been more compelling.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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. [In late 2006, Young released a version of the album made up of the songs as they were originally mixed immediately following their recording. No remixing was done and the vocal choir overdubs that were added a week later aren't present; what you get is a look at the project in it's raw state. Also included in the package is a DVD that presents documentary video footage of the sessions.]
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/19/2006
  • Label: Reprise / Wea
  • UPC: 093624326526
  • Catalog Number: 43265
  • Sales rank: 49,736

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Neil Young Primary Artist, Vocals
Karen Tobin Choir, Chorus
David Lasley Choir, Chorus
Clair Marlo Choir, Chorus
Andrew Gold Choir, Chorus
Wendy Waldman Choir, Chorus
Michael Rogers Choir, Chorus
Franne Golde Choir, Chorus
Carl Graves Choir, Chorus
Catte Adams Choir, Chorus
Morgan Ames Choir, Chorus
Eddie Anthony Choir, Chorus
Rosemary Butler Choir, Chorus
Moon Calhoun Choir, Chorus
Laura Creamer Choir, Chorus
Chad Cromwell Drums
Julie Delgado Choir, Chorus
Davey Faragher Choir, Chorus
Jim Gillstrap Choir, Chorus
Diane Gordon Choir, Chorus
Ellis Hall Choir, Chorus
Linda Harmon Choir, Chorus
Wayne Jackson Choir, Chorus
Clydene Jackson Choir, Chorus
Vann Johnson Choir, Chorus
Darlene Koldenhoven Choir, Chorus
April Lang Choir, Chorus
Donna McDaniels Choir, Chorus
Dan Navarro Choir, Chorus
Bill New Choir, Chorus
Debbie Pearl Choir, Chorus
Herb Pedersen Choir, Chorus
Tim Ramirez Choir, Chorus
Andrea Robinson Choir, Chorus
Rick Rosas Bass
Julia Tillman Waters Choir, Chorus
Gary Stockdale Choir, Chorus
Maxine Willard Waters Choir, Chorus
Oren Waters Choir, Chorus
Arnold McCuller Choir, Chorus
Lisa Jones Choir, Chorus
Marc Mann Choir, Chorus
Robin Lerner Choir, Chorus
Marsha Malamet Choir, Chorus
Lois Blaisch Choir, Chorus
Alicia Morgan Choir, Chorus
Mark Islam Choir, Chorus
Ali Handal Choir, Chorus
Candy Chase Choir, Chorus
David Morgan Choir, Chorus
Amy Bob Engelhardt Choir, Chorus
Ken Stacey Choir, Chorus
Windy Wagner Choir, Chorus
Elliot Rabinowitz Choir, Chorus
Mary Hylan Cain Choir, Chorus
Faith Rivera Choir, Chorus
Dina Torok Choir, Chorus
Gerald White Choir, Chorus
Michele McCord Choir, Chorus
Robert G. Martin Choir, Chorus
Chey Acuna Choir, Chorus
Andrew Ampaya Choir, Chorus
Christi Bauerlee Choir, Chorus
Mary Bolas Choir, Chorus
Stephen Booker Choir, Chorus
Tommy Bray Trumpet
Darlene Carnahan Choir, Chorus
Christy Crowl Choir, Chorus
Rich Cuilty Choir, Chorus
Christianna N. Dicken Choir, Chorus
Scott Dicken Choir, Chorus
Michael Fitz Choir, Chorus
Nirit H. French Choir, Chorus
Jeff Fust Choir, Chorus
Storm L. Gardner Choir, Chorus
Arielle Guitar Choir, Chorus
Todd S. Honeycutt Choir, Chorus
Ernie Halter Choir, Chorus
Patryce Harris Choir, Chorus
Felice Hernandes Choir, Chorus
Pattie E. Brooks Choir, Chorus
Deanna B. Hust Leving Choir, Chorus
David Edward Joyce Choir, Chorus
Jane Elizabeth Kinsey Choir, Chorus
Tracey Lawson Choir, Chorus
Vivian Lesiak Choir, Chorus
Bonnie Levetin Choir, Chorus
Jennifer Menedis Choir, Chorus
Alan Mophew Choir, Chorus
Terra Naomi Choir, Chorus
David Neil Choir, Chorus
Holly Pitrago Choir, Chorus
Doug Prodst Choir, Chorus
Marian Sarnowski Choir, Chorus
Jon T. Schaeffer Choir, Chorus
Ronnie Sumrall Choir, Chorus
Alejandro Venegas Choir, Chorus
Eric Bradley Choir, Chorus
Technical Credits
Neil Young Arranger, Composer, Producer, Vocal Arrangements, Audio Production, Choir Arrangement
Niko Bolas Producer, Audio Production
Darrell Brown Vocal Arrangements, Choir Arrangement
Gary Burden Art Direction
Larry Cragg Guitar Techician
John Hausman Engineer
Jimmy Hoyson Engineer
L.A. Johnson Producer
Tim Mulligan Mastering
John Nowland Engineer
Elliot Roberts Director
Steve Genewick Engineer
Jenice Heo Art Direction
Amber Young Paintings
Harry Sitam Engineer
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