Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Blatantly Stole This To Help Keep You Informed

Haahnster is sorry to report he still cannot comment firsthand, because he has still not heard the album!!! But, this lady has. So, I stole her words...

"Well, I am proud and honored to report that I, along with only 19 other people (two other Rusties) were privileged to hear Living With War tonight at the Reprise Records building in Burbank, CA. It was such a cool experience. I felt like I was going to have a fuckin' heartattack all the way there in the evening traffic, wondering if I'd make it on time, and just thinking 'Oh MY GOD!!!' It was so exciting. Well, I did make it on time, with 20 minutes to spare, to the beautiful wood building on the corner of Burbank Blvd. and Riverside Dr. near the equestrian area of Burbank, which is right next to the gigantic Griffith Park, which is kinda like LA's Central Park.

Anyway, the security guard let me in and I walked up to the desk and signed my name. I noticed that there were others signed in, and that they had put their purpose of being there as 'Neil'. So, I followed suit, and put 'Neil' down as the reason for my visit. I also noticed a name that looked familiar, and I thought, 'Rustie?' Well, it was a Rustie (Who's name I now forget--I'msoooooo sorry, man! I feel terrible, but I am SO bad at names!!!) We had verynice chit chat in the waiting area in their big, comfortable leather chairs. There was a humungous tapestry of Madonna on one wall that I found captivating (I'm a closet Madonna lover, shhhhhh).

At about 7:50PM a slight man walks out and says 'All you for the Neil listening party, come with me.' Everyone in the waiting room stood up andwalked with him. First, we walked down some stairs, then out a door that led to a nice atrium, then into a nicely furnished room that was obviously a special listening room. It was spacious, with book shelves on the far wall, some couches and chairs, and a coffee table. Off to one side was a big desk with chairs. On the opposite wall from the book shelves there was a nice state of the art entertainment center, complete with large screen TV, speakers galore (that were all camouflaged), and an X-Box, plus all your normal entertainment gadgets such as DVD, CD, etc.

We all took some seats and then picked up a paper that had NEIL YOUNG LIVING WITH WAR written on it. Each song was listed 1-10, and then on the bottom of the page it said and Living With I borrowed a book from the shelf behind me to write on and took out a pen. The guy introduced himself as Dan, thanked us for coming on such short notice (which made me chuckle, cause I was like, 'you're thanking ME?'), and then told us that this album was meant to be heard in its entirety; that we should write our reviews to him and he would post them on the blogspot; and that this album was being released in an insane amount of time, and would be available for us to purchase probably by next weekend. That news brought a smile to everyone in the room. He then started the disk, which I noticed was just a normal TDK (I think it was TDK) disk with some black lettering on it.

Here is the official song list:
1) After the Garden
2) Living With War
3) Restless Consumer
4) Shock and Awe
5) Families
6) Flags of Freedom
7) Let's Impeach the President
8) Looking for a Leader
9) Roger and Out
10) America the Beautiful

Overall, I would say that my first listen of the album was one of interest. I'm a fan, and I like Neil a lot, so I was there to see what he had done, and I was determined to not be disappointed. And overall, I was not disappointed. In a nutshell, I would say that if you like 'Mirror Ball' and 'Broken Arrow' you will like the music on this album. It's very raw, very rough, not like the metal you hear on 'Eldorado' with the clean, crisp guitar solos and clear vocals. This music is messy, but somehow flows with a melodic beauty. It's not a new sound for Neil, totally, but it is new. Here's how...the backing vocals.

The voices singing back up meld right along with the music much of the time.And sometimes they really make you want to sing along. I noted this in particular with the first cut, 'After the Garden.' The voices just move with the guitar's melody. I liked that song, but I didn't think it was a strong intro to the record. Sometimes Neil's music takes a few songs for me to warm up to, and this may be one of those songs.

You know how Neil does that thing he does where he pairs sad lyrics with more upbeat grooves, and then sometimes vice-versa? The second cut, 'Living With War' is a song with more upbeat sound, musically, but the lyrics are a real downer. The trumpet plays along with the guitar's melody during some parts of it. The background singers are singing lots of Ooooooooo's in the background, which adds to the sadness. It's very emotional in a way, although I think it would be more listenable if the lyrics were more poetic. The lyrics RHYME,yeah, but they are so straight shooting it just makes you feel bad.

Track 3, 'Restless Consumer,' is sooooo great. I wanted to hear it again right away. The beginning riffs and melodies throughout remind me a lot of 'Be the Rain'. Neil is speaking the line 'Don't need no more Lies!!' with a fierceness, over and over. And then there's that great line that made many of us laugh in the room that went, 'Don't Need no TV tellin me how sick I am.' It's all about the constant weight of the media tellin us to buy things we don't need. I absolutely loved this song.

My love continued to grow for the record with the 4th track, 'Shock and Awe.' Again, lyrics that don't leave a lot of room for interpretation, but musically, I enjoyed it. This was the song that reminded me the most of 'MirrorBall.' There was a lot of solo singing by Neil on this one, whereas in some of the others the background singers sang with him. Plus, during this song there was a great guitar solo, which, to me stood out from any of the other previous songs. And then, as if from nowhere, a lone trumpet solo, backed by heavy guitar and drums, especially symbols. Very cool song, and I would have liked it to have been longer.

'Families' was a shorter song, and it didn't grab me at the first listen. I didn't even write anything about it during the session. I honestly, at this point, can't remember anything much about it. I have to admit that I attended a birthday party afterwards and didn't get home till late, so I guess I should've written down some more notes during the listen...(blush).

The 6th track, 'Flags of Freedom,' had catchy lyrics, in my opinion. I loved the backing vocals...very effective. I fantasized about a live CSNY performance of it, rallying the audience. That would be so cool. Of all the lyrics on the album, I thought this one had the most poetic of all....still...very straight forward....but much more visual.

'Let's Impeach the President' is well situated between the previous song and the next. All I can say is laugh your ass off here. I mean, it's sad, of course, to put together all the shit this president has said and realize how lame he has been over the years. But, I tend to find a lot of humor in Neil's lyrics, so I found myself laughing. I'm sorry I didn't write more of specifically what I heard, but I just remember laughing and smiling through most of it. Sometimes Neil says, 'Flip...flop' and sometimes the background singers say it. It's great when Neil says it...just funny, I don't know.

'Looking for a Leader' is outstanding....this, track 3, and track 9 are my favorites at this point. The message is brilliant and well-said. It fits perfectly after the previous song, and I love the lyric about how 'America is beautiful but it has an ugly side.'

Track 9, 'Roger and Out' really stood out. it was kinda like a mix between music from 'Are You Passionate' and 'Prairie Wind.' It paints a beautiful picture in your mind of two friends bound for adulthood, in the prime of their life, who fall into the war and never see each other again. It's a memory to song, slow and dream-like, but still with great electric guitar. It's a keeper.

I really thought I'd get goosebumps while listening to the 100-voice choir sing 'America the Beautiful.' But I didn't . It was a great version, don't get me wrong. I LOVED the voices. Some folks really got into it, too, and did their own little 'thing' during the song, but it did not give me goosebumps. That's not a bad thing though. There are many songs I love that don't give me goosebumps.

Neil is definitely in the ditch with this album. I'm not saying that it's not listenable or that it's not enjoyable. I loved it....especially musically. But the lyrics are not the kind that make you want to listen over and over to see if you can gain some knew understanding of what it is he's saying. The meanings aren't all that debatable. They are more like speeches put to music, and you either agree with them or you don't. Personally, I agree with everything he said. I'm looking forward to buying the album and playing it some more. This review may not be a cleverly-put thoughtful rant like you might read in Rolling Stone, but it is my first and only thoughts of the album, and from this point on we can only delve deeper into the undertaking. To me, Neil is as full of integrity today as he's always been, and I admire him for allowing his muse to send out a message of shock and awe to the masses, using music that captures the spirit of the message, paired with lyrics that can't be confused for idealism or hypocrisy."

Laurie Hoffman

Reprinted here with Laurie's permission pending...(in other words, if I were a reporter, I would say "Ms. Hoffman was unavailable for comment", meaning she has yet to respond to my hastily sent email from 4 AM).


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