Living with War

Living with War

4.0 19
by Neil Young

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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… See more details below


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.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
Irate, passionate, tuneful, thoughtful and obstinate...The songs on "Living With War" are straightforward and single-minded, setting aside the allusive, enigmatic quality of Mr. Young's rock classics.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
Young has stuck his neck out before, not always in the expected direction... But he has not written and recorded with such emergency since "Ohio."
Los Angeles Times - Randy Lewis
The most powerfully unequivocal condemnation of the war in Iraq to date by a major pop music figure.... The sheer brazenness of this collection is refreshing after years of timidity in the upper echelons of the pop world.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Howard Cohen
[Grade: B] Young hasn't sounded this committed, this tuneful, this raw and this rocking in years.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Reprise / Wea

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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
Pattie Brooks   Choir, Chorus
Darrell Brown   Conductor,Vocals,Choir Master
Rosemary Butler   Choir, Chorus,Choir Conductor
Moon Calhoun   Choir, Chorus
Laura Creamer   Choir, Chorus
Chad Cromwell   Drums
Julie Delgado   Choir, Chorus
Davey Faragher   Choir, Chorus
Freebo   Choir, Chorus
Jim Gilstrap   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
Dan Navarro   Choir, Chorus
Bill New   Choir, Chorus
Herb Pedersen   Choir, Chorus
Tim Ramirez   Choir, Chorus
Rick Rosas   Bass
Gary Stockdale   Choir, Chorus
Oren Waters   Choir, Chorus
Lisa Jones   Choir, Chorus
Marc Mann   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
Skip Waring   Choir, Chorus
Amy Bob Engelhardt   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
Alan Morphew   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
Deanna B. Hust Leving   Choir, Chorus
Eric Bradley   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Neil Young   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Audio Production,Choir Arrangement
Niko Bolas   Producer,Audio Production
Darrell Brown   Choir Arrangement
Larry Cragg   Guitar Techician
John Hausman   Engineer
Jimmy Hoyson   Engineer
L.A. Johnson   Producer
Tim Mulligan   Mastering
John Nowland   Engineer
Elliot Roberts   Direction
Steve Genewick   Engineer
Harry Sitam   Engineer

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