Artist: Neil Young
Musicians:Neil Young – vocals; acoustic guitar; electric guitar; harmonica; piano, Chad Cromwell – drums, Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas – bass, Frank “Poncho” Sampedro – guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals, Ben Keith – alto saxophone; pedal steel guitar; keyboards, vocals, Additional personnel:Linda Ronstadt – vocals on 4, 6, Tony Marsico – bass on 10, Steve Lawrence – tenor saxophone on 2, 7, Larry Cragg – baritone saxophone on 2, 7, Claude Cailliet – trombone on 2, 7, John Fumo – trumpet on 2, 7, Tom Bray – trumpet on 2, 7
Producer: Neil Young & Niko Bolas
Recording Engineer:Niko Bolas
Mixing Engineer: Neil Youg & Niko Bolas
Digital Engineer: Tim Mulligan
Mastering Engineer: Doug Sax
Freedom is the eighteenth studio album by Canadian rock musician Neil Young. Freedom effectively relaunched Young’s career after a largely unsuccessful decade. After many arguments (and a lawsuit), Young left Geffen Records in 1988 and returned to his original label, Reprise, with This Note’s for You. Freedom, however, brought about a new, critical and commercially successful album. This album was released in the United States as an LP record and a CD in 1989. I have the CD version, I know, shame on me for having Neil Young on CD instead of vinyl. Well, I do have many of his LPs on vinyl and this CD is a bit of a standout to other CDs. It really was done well, somehow with the mastery of the great Doug Sax the sound retained much of its natural feel on the CD. Somebody did something right.
Stylistically, the album was one of Young’s most diverse records, ranging from acoustic love songs to raging rockers. Three of the songs on Freedom (“Don’t Cry,” “Eldorado” and “On Broadway”) feature the usual Neil Young heavy waves of thundering distortion and feedback, juxtaposed with quieter sections.
The song, “Rockin’ in the Free World”, bookends the album in acoustic and electric variants, a stylistic choice previously featured on Rust Never Sleeps. The song, despite lyrics critical of the then-new George H. W. Bush administration (“we got a thousand points of light”; “kinder, gentler machine gun hand”), became the de facto anthem of the collapse of Communism. An edited cut of the electric version of the song was used over the final credits of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, and the song was re-released as a single at the time of the film’s release. (By the way, having seen that film I thought the idea was valid indeed, but very poorly executed. Moore did more to damage credibility of truth than assist it with the way the film was done…anyway, enough politics).
Yes, Linda Ronstadt once again appears on a Neil Young LP lending her exquisite vocals. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_(Neil_Young_album)
1. “Rockin’ in the Free World” (Live Acoustic): This is one of my favorites not only as a song, but this version as well. The song was first performed live on February 21, 1989 in Seattle with Young’s band The Restless.
In Jimmy McDonough’s book Shakey, McDonough claims the song originated in one of Young’s tours in the late 1980s. Young and Frank “Poncho” Sampedro purportedly saw newspaper photos of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s body being carried to his grave as mourners were burning American flags in the street. Sampedro commented, “Whatever we do, we shouldn’t go near the Mideast. It’s probably better we just keep on rockin’ in the free world.” Young asked if Sampedro intended to use this idea as the basis of a song and when Sampedro said no, Young said that he would do so instead. However Khomeini’s death occurred months after the first live performance of the song.
The lyrics criticize the George H. W. Bush administration, then in its first month, and the social problems of contemporary American life, while directly referencing Bush’s famous “thousand points of light” remark from his 1989 inaugural address and his 1988 presidential campaign promise for America to become a “kinder, gentler nation.” Despite this, the song became the de facto anthem of the collapse of communism, because of its repeated chorus of ‘Keep on rockin’ in the free world’. To give you an idea of how big this song became the world over: German singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann, who lived in communist East Germany at the time Young released the song, recorded “Alle oder keiner” (“Everyone or no-one”) a version of the song with new lyrics, on his 1991 album Einsame Spitze.
Pearl Jam regularly covers this song in concert, playing it along with “Yellow Ledbetter” as the closer on election years. The band played the song as part of the 1992 MTV Unplugged performance and alongside Young at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. Van Halen performed a version of the song as an encore on their 1993 Right Here Right Now Tour.
The Alarm recorded a version of the song on their album Raw and a Welsh Language version on their album Tân.
Simple Minds recorded it for the 2009 studio album Graffiti Soul.
Bon Jovi performed this song live in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 1, 1995. The performance was recorded in their live album One Wild Night Live 1985–2001.
Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Barry Goldberg (aka The Rides) included a version on the 2013 album Can’t Get Enough.
2. “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part I)”: This is the longest song on the album clocking in at eight and a half minutes. To me this song is a statement on society and the media. It touches on how the news media glorifies crime and violence. The lyrics also touch on the music industry. This is mostly an acoustic song and I like the different breaks throughout the song as well.
3. “Don’t Cry”: Here we have the typical full electric Neil Young. It is kind of a strange song in a sense, it sounds like a love song judging by the lyrics. I can’t decide if I like this one or not personally.
4. “Hangin’ on a Limb”: This is a beautiful acoustic number featuring Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals. I think this one is just pure poetry and not of any specific direct meaning. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.
5. “Eldorado”: This song has a slight spanish flavor. It is mostly electric with the acoustic guitar taking the lead duties for the chorus. It seems to be a story of a drug cartel or something in a sleepy town. It almost has a Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits taste to it.
6. “The Ways of Love”: Kind of a country acoustic style with an almost om-pah style chorus. No doubt a love song, but not a particular favorite of mine on this album
7. “Someday”: This song has a heavy Bruce Springsteen flavor. In fact, if it was not Neil Young, it would be Bruce.
8. “On Broadway” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller): This is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in collaboration with the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song as written by Mann/Weil was originally recorded by the Cookies (although the Crystals’ version beat them to release) and featured an upbeat lyric in which the protagonist is still on her way to Broadway and sings “I got to get there soon, or I’ll just die”. The song was played as a shuffle.
When Leiber/Stoller let it be known that the Drifters had booked studio time for the following day and were a song short, Mann/Weil forwarded “On Broadway”. Leiber and Stoller liked the song but felt that it was not quite right and the four held an overnight brainstorming session which culminated in the better-known version of the song, now with a rock oriented groove and with a more bluesy feel which matched the new lyric in which the singer was now actually on Broadway and having a hard time. A young Phil Spector played the distinctive lead guitar solo on The Drifters’ recording.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Broadway_(song) This Neil Young cover is my least favorite even though done in typical Neil Young style.
9. “Wrecking Ball”: This ballad is kind of a play on words for the title.
10. “No More”: This typical Neil Young style song addresses drug addiction. Neil Young biographer Brian Kreizer describes it as a sequel to “The Needle and the Damage Done.” However, “No More” does not specify which drug or drugs are being referenced.
The first verse is most explicitly about drugs. It describes how difficult it is to get free of drugs once addicted, and recovered addict who is now finally free sings “no more.”
11. “Too Far Gone”: A country flavored song.
12. “Rockin’ in the Free World” (Electric)
Rockin In The Free World (Acoustic – 1990)
Hanging on a Limb: https://youtu.be/tk1w4f6Nc6A
Neil Young showing the youngins in Pearl Jam that a 71-year-old can out-play them.