Living With War

The most important thing about Neil Young’s new album is how fast it was cut.

Talk to a major label honcho today.  It’ll crack you up.  They’re on a GLACIAL pace.  They want you to cut demos.  Co-write.  Work with different producers.  And then, even when your album is finished, they plot a release date with more thought than Rumsfeld and the President employed deciding when to invade Iraq.  As a result, by time the music reaches the public it’s so homogenized, so bland, so OVER that that people shrug and ignore it.  Or, if it does hit, no one takes it seriously.  It would be like going to couples-counseling with someone you broke up with two years ago.

One hopes to make music that will last forever.  Ironically, you can only do this if you forget the future and do what feels right now.  Furthermore, we’re all just a blip in the history of the world, so the music is inherently evanescent, and it’s best to treat it that way.

And, once a record is finished, the marketing campaign is ALSO plotted and executed with more aforethought than Rumsfeld, et al, employed.  There are electronic presskits.  Videos.  Appearances on MTV/"The Today Show"/ET.  Articles about the record in every publication known to man.  It’s carpet-bombing of the worst order.  And, consumers hate the major labels for it the same way the Vietnamese still hate America.  And the Iraqis too.  God, if only labels were paid for their exposure campaigns rather than the music they released…THEN they wouldn’t be in the economic doldrums.

Instead of all this b.s., one should just put the record up on your Website for everybody to hear.  When it’s FINISHED!  If you’re lucky, listeners will care, and you can create some new music when the inspiration arrives, and they’ll be interested in that.  Yup, if he weren’t Neil Young his record label wouldn’t let him release this record.  Because it comes too close on the heels of the PREVIOUS ONE, "Prairie Wind".  You’ve got to maximize profits.  Have the CD in the marketplace when the movie goes to DVD and cable.  You don’t want to confuse the customer.  You’ve got to keep it easy, feed it to them like pabulum.  Don’t respect listeners, play to the lowest common denominator, one step above mental retardation.  You don’t want to leave anybody out in your endless sales effort.  Even though by time you get done flogging the record to every known human being, over and over, NOBODY wants to have anything to do with the act EVER AGAIN!

Neil Young’s been coasting on his reputation for eons.  Those remakes of Harvest…creepy.  Oh, "Greendale" was a return to form, it made one hope.  But the story was so HOKEY!  That’s what happens when you lack inspiration.

Neil’s inspired now.  You can HEAR IT IN HIS MUSIC!

Fire up  You’ll hear the energy, the spark that’s been lacking for DECADES!  Neil’s pissed, and as a result he’s created great work.

I’m only four tracks into the stream.  And so far, the first track, "After The Garden", is the best.  Maybe someday I’ll get through the whole album.  But the fact that you can’t fast-forward, that you can’t take the music away from your computer, shows that technological Luddites are still involved.  So, you want to make it hard for the listener, so you can sell a couple of hundred thousand albums, in a land of HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS?  I hate to tell you, but the more people who hear the music, who have the MP3s, the MORE CDs you’re going to sell.  I know, it’s counterintuitive, but it’s fact.  When TV producers are streaming the hell out of their shows, experimenting with new forms of distribution, the record companies are STILL testing the waters.  It’s kind of like the Administration and global warming.  There are still DOUBTERS!

Believe me, most people don’t give a shit about Neil Young.  He’s a has-been.  Yup, to a kid that’s a fact.  He’s SIXTY!  And the jamming with Pearl Jam was over a decade ago.  If he wants to stay relevant, he’s got to loosen the screws.  And let his music OUT!

As for touring with Crosby, Stills and Nash, one could say this is a bad time, then again, check Neil’s grosses, they’ve fallen off.

Neil should be playing this music anywhere people will have him.  Not talking about the inspiration on TV, just strumming/picking his guitar, letting it ALL OUT!  Letting the music speak.  Giving away on his Website MP3s of every live performance.

Bruce Springsteen is one of us.  Maybe that’s what put a dent in his career.  He used to be the loner.  But now, he’s playing the role of the accepted one.  Whereas Neil BEFITS the moniker of one of his greatest songs.  This loner is a prick who does whatever feels right.  And that’s EXACTLY what we want from an artist.  A lightning rod.  Hell, you pay attention when the bolts start flying through the sky.  When was the last time you stopped in your tracks and paid attention to an artist?

It’s astounding.  Thirty six years after writing and cutting a song in a week Neil’s back at it.  Radio’s not the same, don’t expect to hear any of the tracks from "Living With War" ubiquitously over the airwaves.  It’s hard to rise above the din.  Maybe that’s why Bush and his cronies got away with their activities for so long.  But thank god someone is finally standing up.  We’ve got to stand up.

Actually, the public has been standing up to the major labels for six and a half years.  It’s just that the corporations don’t realize it.  Traders are pirates just like Neil Young and Bill Maher and the Dixie Chicks are traitors.  Think about it.

One Response to Living With War »»


  1. Comment by Wendy Waldman | 2006/04/28 at 21:50:15

    I was one of the lucky, and extremely tired people who sang in the choir on that day.

    It was quite something, I must say.

    And yes, you may laugh at me, because I almost didn’t go! I was so beleagured with so many things-when Dan Navarro called and said we had to be at Capitol records the next morning for a twelve hour session for Neil Young I hedged –albeit briefly. I think I’d just gotten back off the road and was leaving again, still mixing my cd, not wanting to drop everything and do something that would eat a whole day–yes, I was hesitant– though it didn’t last more than a few minutes.

    That’s because Dan pressed me–thanks to the deity of your choice (Kinky Friedman’s phrase of course) and awakened from my stupor, I did indeed go. Forever grateful to my buddy Danny, I might add.
    Out of twelve hours I think we were on our feet for ten and a half–when I got home I was so fried I was afraid my boots wouldn’t come off!

    My very old friend Niko Bolas is his producer and it was lovely to see him as well. Neil was shy for the first three songs–he stayed in the booth and watched all of us through the glass, kind of talked to us through the session leaders. After that, he started venturing out into the room and directing us himself. In the end, he was really into working with us. Our excitement was also contagious to him. That’s when music making is at its finest.

    I don’t know how many of us were there, but it was over 50 singers to be sure–I haven’t seen the final number. We were divided in the traditional fashion, sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. The lyrics were put up on a big screen in the studio, and several times when they appeared, the whole studio broke out in applause and cheers. I think it really made Neil feel great to see the INSTANT reaction from so many musicians. Several singers, among them some of the black singers, approached him, shook his hand and THANKED him for taking this public stand.

    It wasn’t big stars singing there-it was a union date–all the hottest session, film, commercial and tv singers–the ones people don’t know but who sing all the stuff we hear in the big media–and a few songwriters–myself, Bishop, Andrew Gold, Dan Navarro, and Freebo. In some cases we sang all the lines with Neil–talk about a phrasing nightmare!!! Try singing along with him turn for turn–it’s hard enough for one singer, but for a huge studio full of singers!!! He had a great sense of humor about his own work and about how hard some of this was for us. It was hard work, and it was great fun, and everyone felt like we’d been invited to be part of history.

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