Bruce Springsteen: rebel soul, rock renegade, the guy from Philly who only ever sang about cars n' girls; his is a legacy tainted by misinformed paradoy and undeserved malign. In the 70s he was already unstoppable; in the 80s he adopted a commercial bent that propelled him into the realms of superstar (& beyond) - by 1995, with a fair wedge stashed down in Asbury Park, Springsteen had made his millions, and he'd grown old. He didn't need to sing about racing the caddy no more, nor about dating Bobby Jean or sippin' beers after the game. Instead he put it all aside, dispensed with the E-Street sound completely, picked up his acoustic guitar, and made an album from the brink of desolation, a subtle Dylannesque masterpiece, laced with simple, lax melancholy and brimming with wealths of experience, nostalgia and knowing. Never self-indulgent, 'Tom Joad' showcases The Boss' woefully overlooked songsmanship - it's the greatest record he's ever made. A stylistic departure from past releases, and then some, this is the sound of a man unafraid to sound his age - this is grown up music. Springsteen has been a crucial mouthpiece for blue-collar America for the last 30 years. In assesing his career, let us hope that the inclement critic will turn here in his final pause: a phenominal legacy, and a totally gorgeous, unrefined, bare-bones folk wonder-work: dripping with honesty, sheer grit and irrepressable subtlety. The soundtrack to your salvation: invest - it'll enrich your life. It certainly has, mine.