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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 26 December 2009
By the mid-Eighties Neil Young was about as unhip as you could possibly be. He was said to have gone to the right politically and his music was frankly not good (has anyone ever made it to the end of Re-Ac-Tor?). `Trans', `Landing on Water', `Life' - yes they were all a bit rubbish.

1988's `This Note's for You' was a blessed return to form and the following year's `Freedom' showed the old boy could still make it matter. If he ever had been a Reaganite he certainly wasn't now - the album casts a harsh light on the American mantra of `at least we're free'. This is an album about the breakdown of family life for the forgotten - the underclass whose only way out was drugs or crime.

The cover of `On Broadway' takes it to a rather silly level to make his point but the rest of the album is superb. Great crunching guitars on `Don't Cry', `Eldorado' and the electric version of `Rockin' in the Free World' but also some wonderful ballads, `Hangin' on a Limb', `Someday', `Too Far Gone' and of course there's `Crime in the City' which, with its short-story format and saxophone breaks, sounds like virtually nothing else he's ever recorded.

From here on he was back up and running and heading for his `Godfather of Grunge' period - `Ragged Glory', `Weld' etc. Good on him.
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When I first listened to this back in the day, I don`t think I really appreciated it. I was always more intrigued by Neil`s work that came from the ditch, and this was a little polished; maybe I was missing the sloppy support of the redoubtable Crazy Horse, who always seemed to be playing on my favourite Young albums (such as Weld, or Zuma).

Well, time has been kind. Bookended by contrasting versions of probably Neil Young`s most radio-friendly song, "Rockin` In The Free World", it is easy to miss the great songs inbetween. "Crime In The City" is an epic, with brilliant lyrics describing aspects of society in meltdown and has always been an absolute joy to me, despite its nine minutes plus length. "Don`t Cry" is one song that I have really learnt to love now though, and showcases probably the first time Young employs the thunderous, crushing distorted power that grabbed my interest on "Weld". This power pops up on "Eldorado" too, contrasting with the light Spanish guitar that plays throughout. "No More" and "Too Far Gone" are great songs too, hammering home the album theme that too much Freedom seems to have negative consequences for many; drugs, homelessness and violence seem to lurk menacingly behind many songs. "Hangin` On A Limb" emphasises the fragile nature of happiness and success.

If I had to pick some weak points, then "The Ways of Love" would be one, for sure, but even "Someday" and "On Broadway" can work on the right day, which is one of the great strengths of the album - "Freedom" contains so many different styles of song. Overall, the many high points are plenty good enough to warrant a solid five stars.
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on 8 January 2004
While there are more than enough individual tracks dotted around his huge number of recordings to justify Neil Young’s major reputation there are only a few albums that, on their own, hold together as satisfyingly complete “works”. And… in the (self imposed) absence of any sensible retrospectives since 1977’s “Decade” (definitely the best place to start for any “casual buyer”) those not “in the know” could be in for some seriously expensive mistakes. So, what’s been worth the money since then? Well…for anyone looking for the mellower side of this brilliantly mercurial but annoyingly erratic artist here’s a few suggestions: “Comes a Time” (1978), “Freedom” (1989), “Harvest Moon” (1992) and “Unplugged” (1995).
“Freedom” – his best album from the 1980’s – opens with two of his finest tracks: the anthemic “Rockin’ in the Free World” and the driving acoustic riffs, wonderfully atmospheric sax breaks and lyrically brilliant textures of the 8 minute “Crime in the City”. Good start, with much more to follow. In particular, the beautifully wistful “Wrecking Ball” (reworked, as with many of Neil Young’s stand-out tracks, even more effectively by someone else, in this case Emmylou Harris), the insidious anti-drug riffs of “No More”, the catchy harder electric rock of “Eldorado” and the beautifully gentle country/folk rock of “Too Far Gone”, “Hanging on a Limb” & “The Ways of Love”. And, with only the, albeit well executed, excursions into “heavy metal grunge” of “Don’t Cry” & “On Broadway” and the somewhat strained vocals of “Someday” sitting uncomfortably in such a satisfyingly laid-back set the album leaves you feeling… happy! Money well spent.
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on 6 December 2007
Neil always had a very inconstant talent, alternating pearls like Zuma or On the Beach (his masterpiece) to average stuff like Long May you Run and Re Ac Tor to ugly recordings like Old Ways or Everybody's Rocking. This represents his return to form after his delirious ventures into electronics, rockabilly and soul music. The record features an anthem like "rocking in the free world", still sung by Pearl Jam and many others, and gems like Eldorado or Crime in the City. Not all the album is so good though, as is typical of Neil, there are some forgettable songs like Too far Gone or The ways of love, but overall it's a good recording and one of his best since the milestones of the seventies. The sound is, in the good songs, very basic, as it's often the case with his best recordings, and the lyrics can be good (rocking in the free world and Crime in the city both have excellent lyrics)
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on 5 June 2011
yep, thank God Young found his mojo again after some truly aweful albums in the 1980s, Crime In The City is the pick of the bunch on this one, its an epic track complete with sax solo's detailing the problems in the US through the 'greed decade'.
there's a cover of On Broadway here in which Neil puts a new electric spin on the classic soul ballad. there are other good ballads here,a couple of nice guitar driven tracks and the classic Rockin' In The Free World. not all of the tracks are new, some have been around since the 1970s waiting for the right moment to release them on record,all in all a good young album.
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on 19 July 2009
Freedom was released in 1989 and as far as I am concerned Neil is on top form.
It starts and finishes with Rockin' In The Free World and does'nt let up in between.
There's plenty of energy and commitment from Neil, my favourite track is his version of On Broadway.
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on 16 July 2012
Yes, I have carped some on Neil's failings, but this album is up there with his classics + Harvest Moon. And Crazy Horse don't ruin it! The tunes are timeless, the lyrics ever-relevant, and the care given to the arrangements leaves you wondering why NY doesn't put more effort into his homework on other LPs. Get the album.
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on 12 July 2004
Saw Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 yesterday, this song played over the end credits. Nobody moved from their seats at first. The words
''There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.'
Keep on rockin' in the free world''
will be with me for a long, long time.
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on 23 December 2013
I'm slowly buying all his albums and I like this one but not as much as Harvest, After The Goldrush etc.. The production isn't as good on this one and I think he hit a creative low in the 1980's by the looks of it.

There are some good songs on this though and obviously the album has Rockin In The Free World on it which is worth buying it for alone. There aren't any other great songs on this album though but I'll give it a chance to grow on me. For now it get's 4 stars.
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on 20 April 2009
Full of good music, apparently collected from several unfinished ny projects, but amazingly, after some of the tepid records bhebhad beeen churning out, really enjoyable and exiting - recommended
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