Friday, April 28, 2006

Neil Young and "Living With War"

For any music fan, the place to be today is at Neil Young's official Web site where his forthcoming album "Living With War" is being played in full throughout the day. Some thoughts as it streams over my computer.

Track #1, "After the Garden," immediately establishes this is a project that may have put together quickly, but sounds great in terms of the performance. Neil has a great solo too; says lots with a simple melody line.

Track #2, the title song, has a gentle and forceful power with the chorus and his guitar sharing the audiospace; very nice. The thrid song, "The Restless Consumer," is more in the spirit on his work with Pearl Jam in the 1990s (think "Throw Your Hatred Down"), but more raw and almost like spoken word.

No matter one's specific political views, I think the universal themes Neil Young addresses are something most good people agree with. No more lies, an end to hunger, peace; I think where the difference between Americans are the causes of society's and the world's ills and how best to address them.

Track #4, "Shock and Awe" really rocks. It delivers with the fiery beat and crunch that Neil put to use with "Rocking in the Free World." Neil's voice and passion are evident; a great song. I'll be hitting repeat on this track when I get the disc for sure. When he sings "Thousands of bodies in the ground," it brings to mind the ultimate price that soliders and civilians often pay in places plagued by war. A nice horn (trumpet?) solo segues into a soaring chorus; this is the standout track so far, especially as a strong rocker. Neil unleashes blistering guitar work too, positioned around the trumpet and the song builds and builds. A real winner!

With a title like "Families," you know Neil is going to look at the ties that bind. The melody and delivery are emotive, and the chorus is just right. I'm now thinking this is truly one of the best albums of 2006, and Neil's best release since "Harvest Moon" (1992) or "Silver and Gold" (2000).

"Flags of Freedom," another strong vibe, midtempo and great vocal performance from the 60-year-old artist (can you believe he's 60, wow)...the harmonica is a great touch as well.

"Let's Impeach the President" has the feel of a 1960s protest song. "Roger and Out" sounds like some of Neil's alt country material - think 1978's "Comes a Time."

The album ends with "America the Beautiful," the many voices of the chorus that Young put together for the project coming together in an emotional finale. This is an outstanding album and even after a single listen, I'm impressed. I'm going to give it another listen.

I'm off to Coachella tomorrow morning and I'll check back with you next week when I return from Indio to OC.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Jack's Mannequin; a full-length show!

On April 14, Jack's Mannequin played a full-length headlining show at the Anaheim House of Blues. I saw Andrew McMahon and his band play a 35-minute show last month at the same venue, but seeing how they could pull off a more ambitious set was worth a return visit to Downtown Disney last Friday night.

Andrew appears to be getting stronger and stronger following his much-chronicled battle against leukemia, and even got up on top of his grand piano let in the set to perform before the capacity crowd. And the songs sounded great. "Bruised" (my favorite), "The Mixed Tape" and "I'm Ready" all sounded fiery and connected with the enthusiastic crowd.

I can't wait to hear the sophomore effort from Jack's Mannequin; hopefully we get that in 2007...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

OCMAs, Stavesacre

I've been ever-so-busy lately. I went and was a presenter at the Orange County Music Awards last Saturday night. I forgot who actually won in the category where I was a presenter (Best Classic Rock), but they didn't show. Not nice. I saw many music friends throughout the night. Michael Ubaldini, Hugh, 9 Ball, Scarlet Crush - great to see all you talented folks!

Check my column out in the Show section of the Register on Friday. I had a long chat with Mark Salomon yesterday. He was very sick, but still talked to me for more than 30 minutes and it will lend itself to a good preview...

Less than a month until Coachella. Can't wait!