I've followed Springsteen since the late seventies and have been quite disappointed by his output over the past few years (since The Rising). It seemed that he was churning out music that didn't have his soul in it, driven by the demands of the label. This background made me a touch dubious when word spread that there was a new CD on the way.
What a delight it is to find that the heart and soul is back in his music. The more I listen to this, the more I love it. The ever changing textures of the sound are amazing, there are so many subtle nuances it always feels fresh. The muddy mix of recent recordings has, thankfully, been banished. The musicianship is superb, and The Boss is in fine form with a wide range of vocal styles. Much of the music is influenced by past eras, but the tales being told are very much about today, and how everyday life has become such a struggle as standards of living get squeezed. There are also tracks that have a religious tone, most notably the superb Rocky Ground. The only track that I feel is out of place is You've Got It, which on the sleazy side. Thankfully it's infinitely better than Reno! Everything else is truly great. If I had to pick stand out tracks I would go for Death To My Hometown, Shackled and Drawn, Jack Of All Trades and Wrecking Ball. But really, I love it all, and the more I listen to it, the more I love it.
I'm even thinking this could be his best album, which almost feels like sacrilege!