by David Cooper
The Canadian music hall of famer and former member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is responsible for hits like Southern Man, Heart of Gold and Harvest Moon. But on his newest record, titled Living with the War, Young is taking a page from Bob Dylan and putting together an album of protest songs against the actions of American President George W. Bush. Not a stranger to protest music the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tune “Ohio” was written in reaction to a protest against the Vietnam War.
Even if you don’t agree with Neil Young’s politics, then listen to the music. One cannot help but be daunted by the intersection of his genius and ire on his second album in less than seven months. The genius of Young is so vast, it is almost unbelievable to think and artist can channel indignation and moral disgust in such a coherent and commanding way–without sacrificing any of the vivid imagery, passion, or the competent level of musicality that we have come to expect from Young over the past four decades. That is not what elevates this album to its highest potential: it’s his unabridged, naked, deep-seated reaction to the Bush administration’s foreign policy, building on a battery of outrage that finds its beginnings with 1970’s “Ohio,” penned in the aftermath of the Kent State student deaths. The work of art begins by filling in the lines that he began to draw on 2003’s Greendale about a family caught in changing times. Young comes full circle when he is done with musing about lost ideals. On Living with War, he demands much more from his audience, and himself. Young has certainly expressed his freedom of speech.