Thursday, April 6, from 10am to about 11pm, I got to sing on a session for the
new Neil Young record at Capitol Studio "A," where Nat "King" Cole, Frank
Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin and many more, recorded many of their best
records. So the first great thing was singing at Capitol "A". It was a big
group, and populated by some of the session singers I knew in town (the more
rock and R 'n' B ones) as well as a LOT of singer-songwriters like David
Faragher, Wendy Waldman, Stephen Bishop, David Lasley, Andrew Gold, and a bunch
I didn't know. That was probably because the contractor for the session was
Rosemary Butler, an A-call background singer in the 70s and 80s for people like
James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
Now when most of us have a disagreement with or get fed up by the illegitimate war in Iraq, and the spies and lies of Bush and Co., we send out an e-mail or talk about it with friends. Neil does a whole fucking album. My pal Bill Mumy reminded me that after the Kent State Massacre, Neil wrote and released "Ohio" in the space of a few weeks. He certainly puts his money where his mouth is.
The songs were vintage Neil, and about as honestly passionate as you could get. The man knows how to write a rock song. It was a clear statement of what he thinks about the war, the Bush administration, and the state of America today, delivered without pretension and without the usual rock star self-importance. Just an angry guy putting his thoughts into a song. Just so happens this angry guy is one of the best rock songwriters ever.
He was out with us in the room a lot, and he got a few laughs out of watching 80 people trying to match his admittedly rather quirky phrasing.
At one point, he brought out a U.S. military camouflage jacket and hat and hung them on the side of one of the big mic stands (which held a lovely RCA 44 high above the chorus), I guess to remind us we were singing about actual people who were being put into harm's way.
We did about 10 songs. The lyrics were projected on a screen behind the conductor's podium and, as I said, matching his phrasing was often a challenge. But we matched his intensity, singing with fire and joy. The most exciting thing for me was working with this icon (for me, in many ways, Buffalo Springfield were nearly as influential in the Beatles.) who seemed to have lost none of the energy and commitment he's had from the beginning.
One of the songs was a sort of Dylan tribute and had the lines:
"Listenin' to Bob Dylan singin' in 1963
Watchin' the Flags of Freedom Flyin'"
other snippets of songs I remember:
"I'm livin' with war everyday
I'm livin' with war in my heart everyday"
"Let's impeach the President for lyin'"
The political side of it was great, and more power to Neil for actually creating something out of his opinions and outrage instead of just talking about it or ignoring it. But, again, that was all somewhat secondary to getting to work with and sing with a hero of mine, and a guy who has never taken the easy way out.
It was a magical day. I almost NEVER use this word, but in this case it was true.
Los Angeles Times report on the new album