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This review is from: Magic (Audio CD)
Now approaching 60, Bruce Springsteen is arguably one of the artists of the current decade, after a fairly lean patch in the 90s, and is, in my opinion, producing the finest work of his career since pre Born In The USA.
2002's The Rising, Springsteen's superb post 9/11 commentary through the eyes of individual characters, was followed by the low key acoustic Devils And Dust, the joyously exuberant 'Seeger Sessions' album of folk songs, and now this, a vintage Bruce rock n roll album with the full E Street band in fine from.
There are echoes of his previous work all over this album, right back from the Born To Run days, through to The River, Nebraska and Born In The USA, and yet none of it sounds dated, or like treading over old ground. Both his voice and the band's sound have matured, and become more finely tuned. Gone are the occasional tendencies towards chesse and slight lack of quality control that characterised some of his old hits with the E Street band, there is a remarkable consistency here. Some other reviewers have complained about the production, but I like the slightly rough, raw feel, it suits his music better than the over polished glossy sound on Born In The USA, and is more like the sound of his early albums.
As usual, Bruce proves once again to be one of the finest lyricists of his generation, with a mixture of the personal, political and observational.
Two of the album's finest tracks deal in different ways with Iraq, Last To Die is the most overtly political rallying cry 'we don't measure the blood we've drawn anymore/ we just stack the bodies outside the door/ Who'll be the last to die for a mistake'
Even more effective, is Devils Arcade. Characteristically for Bruce, as he did so brilliantly on The Rising, commenting on events through the eyes of an individual, this song takes the role of someone who has lost a loved one in the conflict, and is deeply moving. Its a song which doesn't go for overkill, but is more powerful by the calm dignified delivery which makes it truly poignant. This is followed up by the 'hidden track' Terrys Song, a deeply personal tribute to Bruce's friend Terry Magovern, who passed away this year, which manages to be affectionate and a little humourous, without over sentimentality.
Musically, there is a more energetic upbeat feel to the majority of the rest of the album though, with a more guitar heavy sound than we have heard from Bruce for some time, backed by the familiar bursts of sax from big Clarence Clemons and organ from Roy Bittan, with Max Weinberg's pounding drums evident right from the storming opener Radio Nowhere.
There is a world weariness in many of the songs themselves though, and a middle aged wisdom. You'll Be Comin Down sounds like it could have been recorded for The River, but the words 'you'll be fine as long as your pretty face holds out/ then its gonna get pretty cold out' speak of the elusive passing of youth. The excellent Girls in Their Summer Clothes tells of a middle aged man with a broken heart wistfully watching the girls now beyond his reach.
So far only the title track and the slightly workmanlike I'll Work For Your Love have failed to have much of an impact on me.
Overall this is a terrific continuation of The Boss' fine 00s form, with top quality songwriting, great backing from the E Street band and Bruce himself in fine voice.
Magic. Has he still got it? You bet.