Living with War, released in 2006, is the Grammy and Juno Award-nominated twenty-eighth studio album by the Canadian musician Neil Young. The album's lyrics, titles, and conceptual style are highly critical of the policies of the George W. Bush administration; the CTV website defined it as "a musical critique of U.S. President George W. Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq". Written and recorded over the course of only nine days in March and April 2006,its lyrics are in line with the early 1960s albums of folk artists such as Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan, although they are set to what Young calls "metal folk protest music" courtesy of Young, bassist Rick Rosas, drummer Chad Cromwell and trumpet player Tommy Bray.
The rhythm section of Cromwell and Rosas and Young's "Volume Dealers" co-producer Niko Bolas were also at the core of Young's 1989 album Freedom, which contained an angry criticism of Reagan-George H. W. Bush America. There are other links between the albums: Bray also performed on Freedom andFreedom's hit single "Rockin' in the Free World" also contained a quotation of a President Bush: "a thousand points of light".
Young began writing songs for Living with War in a Gambier, Ohio, hotel room while visiting his daughter at her college. While retrieving coffee from avending machine early one morning, Young saw the front page of a USA Today issue documenting a surgery room on an airplane flying seriously wounded US soldiers from Iraq to Germany. He later told Charlie Rose that the combination of the vivid picture and the headline (which focused not on any suffering and death depicted, but rather on medical breakthroughs made during the war) moved him: "For some reason, that was what did it to me. I went upstairs after that. I wrote this song, 'Families'; I started writing another song, 'Restless Consumer'; I started writing all these songs all at once; I had like four songs going at once." Young has said that after writing the songs, he quickly began "coming apart." He called his wife Pegi back to their room, and "I held on to her, and I was sobbing. I was sobbing so hard, that things were coming out of my face."
The sessions were recorded on 16-track analog tape and mixed to a half-inch analog two-track master, then transferred to high-resolution digital media for CD and DVD manufacturing. The vinyl pressing was on 200 g discs.
On April 28, 2006, the album was given a pre-release premiere in its entirety on the Los Angeles radio station KLOS (95.5) by Jim Ladd. The album was released onto the Internet on May 2, 2006, before entering retail in May 2006. Young has expressed that his intent is that the work be considered as a whole, and the streaming-audio internet release was the whole album, rather than individually selectable songs.
- "That first impression is so important" ... "Instead of just going to "Let's Impeach the President", people will have to absorb the whole thing. To understand the songs, you need to understand where the whole album's coming from. It protects my right as an artist to have the work presented the way I created it." - Neil Young
The rush release and the political nature of the tracks are also comparable to Young's 1970 song "Ohio".
Commenting on the lack of artists writing songs critical of American policy at the time, Young said, "I was hoping some young person would come along and say this and sing some songs about it, but I didn't see anybody, so I'm doing it myself. I waited as long as I could."
All songs written by Neil Young except where noted.
- "After the Garden" – 3:23
- "Living with War" – 5:04
- "The Restless Consumer" – 5:47
- "Shock and Awe" – 4:53
- "Families" – 2:25
- "Flags of Freedom" – 3:42
- "Let's Impeach the President" – 5:10
- "Lookin' for a Leader" – 4:03
- "Roger and Out" – 4:25
- "America the Beautiful" (lyrics: Katharine Lee Bates; music: Samuel A. Ward) – 2:57
- Neil Young – guitars, harmonica, vocal
- Rick Rosas – bass
- Chad Cromwell – drums
- Tommy Bray – trumpet
- Neil Young & Niko Bolas – producers
- L. A. Johnson – assistant producer
- Mix-down at Redwood Digital with Niko Bolas and second engineer John Hausman
- Mastering by Tim Mulligan at Redwood Digital
- Hi-def digital videography for Shakey Pictures done by L. A. Johnson's crew for possible full-length video documentary
- 100-voice choir conducted and arranged by Darrell Brown and recorded in one 12-hour session at Capitol recording studios in Los Angeles. According to Neil Young, "This is the same studio where Frank Sinatra performed and recorded many of his big hits."
|Canadian Albums Chart||#7|
|UK Albums Chart||#14|
|U.S. Billboard 200||#15|
|Irish Albums Chart||#24|
The album debuted on the Billboard 200 album chart on May 27, 2006, with sales of about 60,000 copies. It remained on the chart for 14 weeks. Neil Young released a free download of the album on his website and over 1,000,000 copies of the album were downloaded in the first month of release.