Blogger with a Guitar

Neil Young 9.jpgPalm smacks to the forehead: Of course! Neil Young, blogger.

Hasn't Neil always been a blogger? Haven't all his albums been spontaneous reflections of whatever's going through his head and happening in his life at the moment? The rap on Neil was that his recording techniques were often slipshod, that he had no filter, he released too many albums with too many bad songs drowning out the great ones. But that's been his aesthetic since 1970. Write it, record it, put it out.

I remember Rolling Stone's review of "After the Gold Rush," complaining Young hadn't spent enough time on it. From that 1970 review:

Neil Young devotees will probably spend the nest few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After the Gold Rush is good music. But they'll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface. In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the session. It needed time to mature. On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them. Set before the buying public before it was done, this pie is only half-baked.

Time has proven their judgment on that classic album to be wrong, but a good many of his subsequent albums, which he approached in the same haphazard way, are terrible. So what?, Neil seemed to say. I can always write another one, and maybe it'll be better. He's hit the mark enough times that you're compelled to at least check out anything he does.

Neil Young also freely, merrily contradicts himself — especially about politics. He's about the only baby-boom era classic rocker who had the nerve to release a few songs over the years with almost jingoistic right-wing messages. He hates the Iraq war now, but in the post 9/11 "Let's Roll," he waved the bloody shirt.

You've got to turn on evil,
When it's coming after you,
You've gota face it down,
And when it tries to hide,
You've gota go in after it,
And never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

Long ago, Young embraced Ronald Reagan for a time. But he's also tacked way to the left many more times, as he does with the new music on "Living With War."

"Living With War" is an audio blog. If you delve into his web site you'll learn he wrote and recorded all its songs in just the past few weeks. At this writing you can't buy it, and you can't download it, but you can listen to it as an audio stream, so long as you're willing to hear it from the beginning. You can't skip tracks. Eventually it will appear in CD racks, but by that time it will be a souvenir. Its impact is being felt right now. Bloggers all over the world are invited to link to it. He wants his fans to hear it now, while its themes are still hot.

This is a real Marshall McLuhan moment. Up to now, the Internet has been seen as just another channel to present music. But "Living With War" is music for the Internet. I don't know if it's the first example, but given Neil's fame and huge international fan base, I predict it will have immense influence.


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