LIVING WITH WAR
Neil Young (Reprise)
Neil Young's anti-war bromide is agit-pop performed at its highest level.
If you're a George W. Bush supporter you're going to be seriously agitated at Young's relentless assault on the President. If you're against Bush, and by extension the war in Iraq, then "Living With War" is a call to arms and a rallying cry for peace.
There's nothing surprising about this disc, Young's 40th. The guitars are cranked up to about 11, and even though he's not working with his usual rock band, Crazy Horse, the sound is typical of Young when he rocks out. The rough edges are not buffed out and his voice is a keening wail against a backdrop of fuzzy noise.
Starting with a few electric guitar rumbles that sound like an old car getting warmed up, Young comes out kicking hard and sad with the elegiac "After the Garden," which imagines life after we've ruined just about everything. "Shock and Awe," a rager that looks back in anger at the early days of the war, is one of the best hard rock tunes he's ever delivered.
Over the course of the disc's 10 songs, Young dips liberally into the protest singer's toolbox. He name-drops Bob Dylan, co-opts a few patriotic standards ("Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful") and sets a rant ("Let's Impeach the President") to a sunny, catchy melody that sticks in your brain (and your craw, if you're pro-Bush) for days.
Any judgment of Young has to account for the obvious fact that this is the work of an artist who is passionate about America's future and who mourns for its soul. We need him, whether we agree with him or not, because he speaks the truth as he sees it, regardless of commercial considerations.
That it took a Canadian to produce such a polemic is an irony that should be lost on no one.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Andy Caldwell (Om)
Given that Caldwell made his name as a dance music producer/DJ, it's somewhat unexpected that his debut artist disc, to be released Tuesday, begins with guitar power chords. But that's a sign of how widely he ranges through the musical spectrum on this excellent CD. Using several singers, including Lisa Shaw and Latrice Barnett, each of whom has released her own CD, he impresses with his song writing, arrangements, and breadth of material that is broadly dance but incorporates soulful vocals; rock, house, and electro; chill-out, and Latin elements. "Universal Truth" will get you moving and wanting to sit back and listen, too, thanks to interesting melodies and a musical palette that reaches across genres.
- RICHARD PATON
REMEMBER: A TRIBUTE TO WES MONTGOMERY
Pat Martino (EMI/Blue Note)
There have been countless salutes to legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, but this one by another legend in his own right, Pat Martino, stands on its own as a brilliant piece of work. This disc is outstanding old-school jazz that's quiet yet intriguing, filled with the kind of passion and verve that it takes a master to capture. It swings on several songs that Montgomery wrote, including "Full House," and carries Montgomery's one-of-a-kind tempo and heartfelt rhythm to a Carl Perkins number, "Groove Yard," two Milt Jackson songs, and a Sam Jones hit, "Unit 7."
- TOM HENRY
WHOLENESS & SEPARATION, Halou (Vertebrae) With ambient and atmospheric arrangements, and fronted by the vocals of Rebecca Coseboom on melodic tracks that encompass electronica, pop and muscular rock, and chill-out, Halou s latest, due out Tuesday, is inventive and offers a distinctive sound. R.P.
THE WILD, Various Artists (Walt Disney) It s solid. It s wholesome. It s fun. And though The Wild soundtrack also isn t particularly noteworthy, considering the dearth of kid-friendly music these days, it s a good middle-of-the-road choice. It has a boppin rhythm with adult sophistication, opening with a rockin remake of Real Wild Child by Everlife, and the nine-track score covers tender moments to gripping tension. T.H.