Neil Young – Freedom: #497 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Neil Young - Freedom

So why is Neil Young’s Freedom on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

While I’m sure I heard the odd Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album as a kid, it occurs to me that the Neil Young that I grew up with was the Neil Young of Freedom.

I recall seeing Young perform “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” on MTV and vaguely doing a calculation that a) here’s this much older rocker guy (versus my then tender teenage self) and b) the title and notion of the song is ever so slightly corny and yet…

And yet. It rocked. It kicked ass. And the message at heart was pure and true. And never more so than in 2023, really (more on this below).

The chunky riff that fires up “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” is still thrilling. And when you look at the song from a technical perspective, it’s surprisingly tight and efficient. It gets you rockin’ (in the free world) and keeps you there throughout its running time.

This is a song, too, that helped not only propel Young into Elder Statesman of Rock status but also lead to his being anointed as the “Godfather of Grunge.” The guitar tone and vibe of “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” lends itself to that, though it’s really more of a great hard rock song versus being the amalgamations of punk and metal that were being fused together in the damp, foggy northwestern reaches of the U.S. around that time.

And some two decades later, Neil Young was still rocking in the free world, and gloriously so. Here’s a live version from a concert in Glastonbury from 2009.

You can see what an influence Neil Young had on future generations of musicians – ranging from Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain to Noel Gallagher and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead – on songs like “No More.” It’s a great and powerful song with a driving beat and pretty melody.  

In terms of who influenced Young himself, I keep thinking about Bob Dylan, particularly on songs like the epic-length “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part I)” – and “Hurricane” specifically in this case. And it’s totally possible that it’s just because I have Pink Floyd’s The Wall in my head from having covered it recently (#499 of best 1,000 albums ever), but there’s a section in the chorus that’s very “Brick in the Wall” to me.

Other stuff that has something to do with Neil Young’s Freedom

Freedom was released in 1989, which was a massively important year politically. It was the year of the Fall of Communism, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall (a wall and city I share a name with, as aside), and the establishment of democracies in what had essentially been Soviet-occupied nations throughout eastern Europe, including Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania.

As of this writing in 2023, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began over a year ago.

The brave soldiers and people of Ukraine are defending the basic right to determine their own future, speak their own language, and live their own lives. They’re doing it for themselves, of course, but in a very real way they’re doing it for everyone.

They’re doing it for you.

Here’s to Ukraine, and here’s to rockin’ in the free world wherever you are.

Some stats & info about Neil Young – Freedom

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Hard Rock, Album Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Freedom released? 1989
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #497 out of 1,000

Neil Young’s Freedom on YouTube

A lyrical snippet from Neil Young’s Freedom that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.