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Springsteen’s Golden Age: 1978

Thanks to this Post by of The New Yorkerspringsteen-1978.jpgBruce Springsteen has been around for a long time—as I say in my Profile this week, I first saw him onstage in 1973, when he was the opening act for Chicago—and the performances he is giving now, at sixty-two, even after losing Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, are extraordinary. He is as he always was: vividly alive, committed, goofy, ferocious, trying new things, deliciously too much. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that his most raucous concerts came in 1978, when the albums “Born to Run” and “Darkness at the Edge of Town” were part of the repertoire, the E Street Band was a well-practiced instrument, and he had honed his stagecraft to a feral fever pitch.

YouTube is full of performances from this golden period. There is a fine audio recording from a date at my beloved Capitol Theatre, in Passaic, New Jersey. There is also some black-and-white footage from Passaic, including this amazing version of “Prove It All Night,” with its famous opening guitar solo:

http://youtu.be/C3vUKBOJ5sU

If you want the song in living color, here it is, from the same tour:

http://youtu.be/yevMYvPAiHk

I’m too young to remember James Brown at the T.A.M.I. show, the Stones in 1969, or Dylan in 1966, but I was lucky enough to see some of those 1978 Springsteen dates, and to get the sense of them you’ve got to watch an entire show. If you have time—and what else are you doing that’s more fun?—watch a representative performance from 1978, like this one, in Largo, Maryland

http://youtu.be/wD6ahb9-0NI

A Contrarian’s Take on Bruce Springsteen’s Life Thus Far!

Author Marc Dolan’s “Bruce Springsteen and the” Promise of Rock ‘N’ Roll” takes an entertaining and argumentative look at the life and words of the Boss.

By by Charles R. Cross

Special to The Seattle Times

PREV of NEXT

 

‘Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ‘N’ Roll’

by Marc Dolan

Norton, 528 pp., $29.95

Any biographer who dives into an already well-documented life is faced with the challenge of what angle to take. Most biographers only undertake this task when they have reams of new research to offer up. A few writers, however, decide they will simply write a better book than the previous entries, sometimes with a slightly different angle, or a more personal narrative.

When it comes to Bruce Springsteen, there are a dozen biographies already on the shelf — including an encyclopedia-type offering of mine, “Backstreets,” from 1989. Marc Dolan decided to craft his biography, “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” by culling research from all the other books already out there but putting a more contrarian narrative into his prose. And while the end result fails to deliver much new ground, Dolan has written a largely entertaining overview.

The two best-selling Springsteen books yet have been authored by Dave Marsh, who virtually made his career out of chronicling the Boss, but who also happens to be married to Bruce’s co-manager.

Dolan, in contrast, is beholden to no one, and as a result his book comes alive when he challenges the previously held notions about Springsteen’s motivations. It is at its best when he dives into Bruce’s own explanations. Dolan doesn’t have a thesis here, but his insights, sometimes into small events, are revealing.

For example, after Springsteen released his stripped-down 1982 album “Nebraska,” and later explained that part of the reason for the choice of recording location was that he found the recording studio too “sterile and isolating,” Dolan calls that disingenuous.

Dolan writes, “How much more sterile and isolating could a Manhattan recording studio be than a spare room in a house you rent because you can’t commit to a permanent home, sitting alone for hours on end in the middle of the night with nothing but a collection of sound equipment to keep you company?” Touché.

Dolan’s writing is strongest when he tackles the middle years of Springsteen’s career — the albums “The River” through “Tunnel of Love” — if only because as Springsteen’s career was ascendant, few dared to challenge what he said in an interview, or when he obviously was adrift in his personal life. Many of Dolan’s most salient points come when he analyzes songs that often have not been so closely examined. As for Springsteen’s biggest single, “Dancing in the Dark,” Dolan writes “it’s hard to say if it’s really about anything, except the situation that Bruce found himself in during the winter of 1984: stuck.”

At times Dolan comes off as too argumentative, which might be expected from a professor, Dolan’s day job. And as with any biography written from secondary sources, at times Dolan tackles a story that is already off-base, and follows it farther astray.

Springsteen’s life is still unfolding, of course, and Dolan’s book is hardly the final word — two other biographies are due this fall alone. But until the definitive book arrives, “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a worthy addition for a fan, or anyone who enjoys a good argument.

Seattle writer Charles R. Cross is the author of biographies

of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

Musical DNA: WhoSampled iPhone App Scours Tracks for Borrowed Riffs

If you’ve heard all of the new Bruce Springsteen album, Wrecking Ball, you’ve probably wondered, listening to its final rousing track, “We Are Alive,” why that song sounds so familiar. Or maybe you got the riff right away on your own — a nod to the signature eight-note motif in Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Because who hasn’t heard Cash’s song a zillion times, right?

But there’s another track on the Boss’s new album dubbed “Death to My Hometown” that I’ll bet you didn’t know contains direct samples from another relatively obscure musical group.

(MORE: Mashable Snags New Bruce Springsteen Single ‘Wrecking Ball’)

Ever heard of the early twentieth-century group Alabama Sacred Harp Singers? Their song “The Last Words of Copernicus”? From Southern Journey Volume 9: Harp of a Thousand Strings – All Day Singing From the Sacred Harp? Held within the Alan Lomax Collection of ethnographic materials?

Me neither. Except they’re just about the first thing you hear five seconds after Springsteen’s song starts — that glorious full-throated choir, over which Springsteen’s laid a rousing foot-stomp and bagpipes.

I got the “We Are Alive” Cash “hook/riff” reference on the first listen, but I never would have figured out the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers in “Death to My Hometown” on my own. I’d never even heard of them (despite, it seems, having heard songs inspired by them in the movie Cold Mountain). I just assumed the singing was by a contemporary choir done in the studio.

My tipster: WhoSampled, a musical search engine that can unearth who sampled or covered a song, building chains of connectivity that, in the company’s own words, allow users to “explore the DNA of music.”

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere. Sampling, on the Other Hand…

In this case, I was using the new $2.99 iPhone version of the technology, which not only offers access to the full gamut of WhoSampled’s online wares, but can scan your local music library and give you a rundown of your music’s history, so-to-speak, sorted by “tracks” or “artists.”

Since I have Wrecking Ball in my library, let’s finish WhoSampled’s insider rundown: There’s the song “Land of Hope and Dreams,” which WhoSampled tells me contains a “replayed sample” (a vocal or lyric line) from The Impressions’ “People Get Ready.”

There’s “Rocky Ground,” which employs a “direct sample” of Peerless Four’s “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord” (from Southern Journey Volume 8: Velvet Voices, another Alan Lomax Collection recording). And there’s “Shacked and Drawn,” which references Lyn Collins’ “Me and My Baby Got Our Own Thing Going” by way of another “replayed” vocal/lyrical sample.

I’m assuming most will get obvious references like Springsteen’s “People Get Ready” quote 5:30 into “Land of Hope and Dreams,” but the the one from Peerless Four? Lyn Collins? Who knew?

The app’s iPhone interface itself is elegant and uncluttered, and if you’re scanning sampled tracks, the application places the original and sampled versions left and right, respectively, with arrows indicating who sampled whom. And WhoSampled delineates between the kind of sampling, be it direct, an instrumental riff, or the interposition of another song’s lyrics.

If you drill on older, popular music, like Seal’s “Crazy,” you’ll find a wealth of secondary information as well. In the case of “Crazy,” for instance, there’s its sampling of Led Zeppelin’s “The Crunge,” but you’ll also note it was sampled (by Seal himself) in his cover of “Fly Like an Eagle.” You’ll see it’s been covered at least five times by artists including Iron Savior and Alanis Morissette. And you’ll discover any remixes, like the William Orbit version released on the “Crazy” maxi-single in 1990.

(LIST: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012)

Depending on the largesse of YouTube, WhoSampled even offers embedded YouTube versions of a sampled/covered/remixed song. Want to hear Alanis Morisette’s take on “Crazy”? Click the play icon and WhoSampled pops the iPhone’s YouTube player open fullscreen and runs the track. From here you can add the sample/cover/remix to your favorites, discuss it, rate it, look for similar songs and see who contributed the link. In the case of songs that sample other songs, WhoSampled lists where the sample appears, in minutes and seconds, just above the YouTube clip, so you can quickly find it.

If WhoSampled doesn’t have a YouTube link for a song, it offers clips from alternative sources, like iTunes (though in the latter’s case, you lose the “sample timing” and you’re limited to the iTunes preview length). And when you tap “Done,” the playback screen minimizes — there’s no kludgy inter-application switching.

Record Scratch?

For all the upsides, the app has a few serious downers. It doesn’t list the timing of the sample’s appearance in the original track itself, which can be confusing. Sometimes YouTube clips set the actual music playing later or earlier, say someone’s placed a silent text intro before the song starts. So in Bruce Springsteen’s “We Are Alive,” for instance, WhoSampled lists the Cash sample’s appearance in the YouTube video as beginning at 1:33, which is spot-on for the video.

But in the actual track off the album, the sample starts at 1:28, five seconds sooner. No big deal for an easily recognizable song like “Ring of Fire,” but you can see where it might be confusing as the samples get more obscure or they’re less obviously foregrounded in the mix.

It’d be nice to see WhoSampled add an “in the actual track” time listing. I initially misread the “sample appears at…” time as applicable to the track, flipped over to my iTunes library, scrubbed to 1:33 and overshot.

Another issue: Sometimes artists have multiple cover versions of a song, but WhoSampled doesn’t find them all. In the example above — Alanis Morisette’s cover of “Crazy” — WhoSampled only knew about the 5:22 version (with about 577,000 views). But there’s a shorter, much more popular (over 1.8 million views) and notably different (think dance) 3:41 version by her here that WhoSampled — both the app and website — didn’t seem to know about (it’s less a criticism of the app than the WhoSampled backend itself).

And sometimes the WhoSampled app misses tracks entirely. On George Michael’s 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 — currently in my listen-to library — there’s a track titled “Waiting for That Day” with glaringly obvious references to The Rolling Stones’ 1969 song of the same name. In fact, the whole song is basically the Stones’ chords and rhythms with different lyrics (Michael even kicks in with the Stones’ chorus at 4:16 to close out the song, and both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are credited as co-writers). And yet the WhoSampled app ignored that, too, even though the online version found it without trouble.

Conclusion

It’s enlightening to make the musical connections WhoSampled already knows about, but when you discover they’re incomplete, the app starts to feel more like a jumping off point than an encyclopedic reference database. After all, the last thing you want is to be second-guessing the completeness of something that bills itself as a musical DNA roadmap.

Factor in the app’s higher-than-expected $2.99 price tag (the service is available free on the web), and it’s hard to recommend. If the company can clean up its scanning technology so it’s not missing local tracks in your iPhone library during scans, as well as fill in the occasional referential blanks, like when a song has multiple different cover versions by the same artist, $2.99 for a complete cataloguing tool would be a bargain. But until then, your mileage may — and probably will — vary.

 

Old Music: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band – Rosalita (Live 1978)

If you can look at this clip and not want to join a rock’n'roll band, you have a very hard heart indeed!

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/3qFdcHo7Z7w?feature=player_embedded” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

  I came very late to Bruce Springsteen. Very late indeed. In fact, if you’d told me I’d ever be one of the adoring throng at a BFI event queueing up to shake his hand and have a photo taken with him, I’d have laughed at you, and pointed out that I once left an E Street Band gig an hour early out of sheer boredom. What changed?

In his blog about Springsteen last week, Dorian Lynskey wrote about the “leap of faith” Springsteen requires. I think that’s especially the case with those raised on some kind of musical dogmatism – in my case, that’s 80s indie, with its suspicion of big American rock above all things. Springsteen requires you to embrace the corn: you have to accept that the most important American rock star of the last 40 years does not really care about that most crucial of rock traits: coolness.

My Damascene moment came in a basement in Soho, on a sweltering night in May 2005. My colleague Laura Barton and I had started a monthly club night and she insisted we finish our first event by playing Born to Run. I scoffed. You can’t dance to it. It’s got that breakdown in the middle where all you can do is stand still. It will clear the dancefloor.

It won’t, she insisted. It will fill the dancefloor, even if people are just standing there waving their arms around. She was right; I was wrong. At two in the morning, the entire clientele of Push bar was bellowing, as loud as it could: “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run!” And, in one of those moments of staggering comprehension that I thought only happened in second-rate novels, I understood: Bruce Springsteen compels you to happiness by sheer force of personality, or – at this point in his life and career – by his sheer mythic persona.

This isn’t just my favourite Springsteen clip; I think it might be my favourite live clip of anyone. The studio version of Rosalita is great enough: as pure an expression of a young man’s joy about being alive, in love and playing rock’n'roll as you could imagine (in those lines: “This is his last chance/ To get his daughter in a fine romance/ ‘Cos the record company, Rosie/ They just gave me a big advance!” you can hear someone marvelling at the madness of being handed a big wedge of dollar bills to do what he’s been doing anyway, for years, for much smaller wedges of dollar bills). In this clip, you can see how the joy spreads, from Bruce to band to crowd, until even someone viewing a clip 34 years later can’t help but be bowled over.

The first woman crawls out of the crowd for a kiss around 1’50″ in. She’s followed by another 15 seconds later, and Springsteen offers a single clap, and a cry of “All right!” as if he’s telling every man in the audience: “Hey! This is what being a rock’n'roll singer’s all about!” Another 20 seconds in and there’s a third. Springsteen turns to face her, both hands palm-up, his face, a cartoon grin. If he could, he’d send his eyes out on stalks. By the end of the song, he’s been wrestled to the floor, three women trying to get a piece of him. It makes me laugh out loud: these aren’t prepubescent girls, these are women who’ve been so moved and excited by the previous three hours – Rosalita’s normally at or near the end of the set – that they can’t contain themselves. Springsteen has achieved the sole real purpose of rock’n'roll: he has taken people out of themselves.

These are all the things that would once have horrified me about Springsteen: now they are the very things I adore. This stuff is corny, but it’s sincere, and even when it’s not sincere – for no one can “mean it” for three hours a night, 150 nights a year, for 40 years – the muscle memory of truth is there in everything he does. The corniness is a means of communication: it’s as if Springsteen knows it will be too cringeworthy to simply state his belief in what music can do, so he dresses it up in the clothes of the preacher, the huckster, the snake oil salesman, in order to smuggle his message in as a joke. By the time he’s finished, though, it’s no joke.

I don’t get the urge to jump onstage when I see Springsteen. But I do things I don’t do at most gigs: I do sing along at the top of my voice; I do dance badly; I do punch the air. For a few hours I shed my embarrassment. It’s like a drug.

I’ve got a musician friend who, a few years ago, sang Rosalita onstage in New York with Springsteen. The New York Times, covering the show, said my friend was “barely able to contain himself: he seemed about to burst”. I can’t blame him.

The lyrics are heavy but the mood was light. It was definitely a celebration at the Izod Center on Tuesday night in Bruce Springsteen’s first New Jersey show on the “Wrecking Ball” tour, as Springsteen’s music whipped his disciples into a frenzy and the album’s serious themes were lost in the rocking of a big band with a huge sound.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Izod Center with E Street Band during the first NJ date of the 'Wrecking Ball' tour in the Meadowlands on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.

MICHAEL KARAS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Bruce Springsteen performs at the Izod Center with E Street Band during the first NJ date of the ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour in the Meadowlands on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.

At 8:27, the lights went out and the arena erupted in cheers. Springsteen opened the show with “We Take Care of Our Own” and the crowd was on its feet. He followed with “Wrecking Ball” and brought up the house lights acknowledging cheers from every side of the arena.

When Jake Clemons stepped into the spotlight for a sax solo in “Badlands,” the third song of the night, the crowd went wild for Clarence Clemons’ nephew.

“Good evening, New Jersey,” Springsteen said after the concert’s first four songs. “It’s great to be home. We missed you. Oh, we need you. Oh yes, oh yes. We opened this building 30 years ago, I guess, back when it was named after a human being. Who can believe it? They used to do that. … Tonight we’re here with old friends and with new friends to look out into old faces and new faces and tell you that the mission of the mighty E Street Band remains the same.

Concert set list

Bruce Springsteen, April 3, 2012, Izod Center

  • We Take Care of Our Own
  • Wrecking Ball
  • Badlands
  • Death to My Hometown
  • My City of Ruins
  • So Young and in Love
  • E Street Shuffle
  • Jack of All Trades
  • Seeds
  • Prove It All Night
  • Easy Money
  • Waitin’ on A Sunny Day
  • Promised Land
  • The Way You Do The Things You Do
  • 634-5789
  • 41 Shots
  • Because the Night
  • The Rising
  • We Are Alive
  • Thunder Road

Encore:

  • Rocky Ground
  • Out on the Street
  • Born to Run
  • Dancing in the Dark
  • Land of Hope and Dreams
  • 10th Avenue Freeze Out

“We’re going to be the joyous power of music and shoot it straight into your heart. We want to wake you up and shake you up and take you to higher ground and we need you to take us there. We’re here to deliver the news with a beat, with a beat, with a beat.

“About what’s outside and inside and send you home with your feet hurtin’ and your hands hurtin’ and your back hurting and your voice hurting.”

Springsteen and the band went into “My City of Ruins” and did the band’s roll call.

“Are we missing anybody?” Springsteen called out, and the fans responded with an affirmative roar. “Are we missing anybody? Do I have to say the names? No, I don’t. All I can tell you is if you’re here and we’re here, then they’re here. So let them hear you.”

Springsteen, referring to Clemons and Danny Federici, the two late members of the E Street Band, held up the mike to the crowd, which went wild, culminating in an ovation that shook the building.

Before the show, many fans wondered what the night would be like without Clemons, the band’s legendary saxophone player.

“It’s very sad,” said Meg Corrigan of Ramsey, who was at the show with her three daughters Kelleen, 22, Shannon, 20 and Taryn, 16.

“I’ve taken them each, one daughter at a time,” Meg said. “This is the first time we’re all together.”

The Corrigans, who were celebrating Shannon’s 20th birthday, went into the arena anticipating a great show, but not expecting to hear many of their favorite songs, which seemed so heavily dependent on Clemons.

Springsteen has responded to the loss of Clemons with a big band to replace the Big Man. The 17-piece group features five horns and Jake on saxophone. Jake stepped ably into his uncle’s shoes and the crowd welcomed him with a huge cheer.

“Of course, we’ve got a story to tell, as usual,” Springsteen told the crowd. “It’s a story about yesterday and tonight and hopefully tomorrow. It’s a story about hellos and goodbyes, the things that leave and the things that remain, so that’s a lot of ground to cover, so we better get started.”

Go to the post ›

Bruce Springsteen: Beyond The Myth

By JUAN RODRIGUEZ, Special to the Montreal Gazette March 28, 2012

It just so happens that Bruce Springsteen was not born to  run, because he has continually received a free ride from the rock critic  establishment that virtually created him in the 1970s.

MONTREAL – Get on up, Brucie’s got a brand new bag – protest songs!  Springsteen has tapped into the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. The proof is the  pudding he serves up in his new album, Wrecking Ball, larded with  socio-political comment.

Wrecking Ball is one of his most fully produced albums ever – guitars and  synths and even strings (a Big Sound for a Big Message) – so good liberals can  have their cake and eat it, too. (Dude, rock on!) Yet, there’s something wrong  with his Etch A Sketch: the people he’s ostensibly “raging” at – the banker  class, and all those other Bosses – are among his biggest admirers, who enjoy a  big rocking sound as much as anybody. The album reminds you of those thrilling  days of 1984 when you could be a fan of newly muscular, dual-headed saviour  Bruce – as well as Rambo!

He’s fed up with the economic mess we’ve been staggering through, and he’s  not going to take it anymore. Bruce-the-amateur-political-scientist blames the  rich-poor dichotomy – actually as old as the hills – on “the Carter recession of  the late ’70s.” (Ah, can we ever get enough of Carter bashing?) His mealy  mouthed earnestness reveals zilch in the personality department, a voice that  does nothing with syllables, vowels, consonants. Instead he flogs you with  Sincerity; he is the Liberace of humility, the ersatz slave to rock ’n’ roll.

He sold out from Day One – before selling out was cool! Two Sundays ago, The  New York Times ran a full-page ad for a special concert event at the famed  black-music palace, the Apollo Theater, celebrating a decade of SiriusXM  satellite radio, through its E Street Radio channel (Bruce Springsteen 24/7).  Turn the page and there’s a full-page discussion of Wrecking Ball from The  Times’ two main pop critics, Jon Pareles and Jon Caramanica, under the  semi-ironic headline, More Fanfares for Those Common Men. Pareles kind of likes  the album, Caramanica sort of doesn’t.

At least there was some debate – nearly four decades late – on his merits. It  just so happens that Springsteen was not born to run, because he has continually received  a free ride from the rock critic establishment that virtually created him in the ’70s.

Rock critics didn’t exist when the Beatles and English Invasion stormed  America – indeed, the Beatles and cohorts were fodder for teen magazines and  Life – but once the young critics got rolling, they developed a craving for  discovering, or having a hand in the success of, future stars. Springsteen is  the archetypal figure in this convoluted process.

Here’s how it went down: In 1975 Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau declared: “I  have seen the future of rock ’n’ roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen.” Then  Landau wound up producing the blockbuster  album Born to Run. (Nice work if you can get it.) Time and Newsweek, ever eager  to expand their demographic, quickly chimed in with cover stories – the same  week! Fellow scribe Dave Marsh, who was living with Springsteen’s publicist  Barbara Carr, wound up penning two potboilers on The Boss.

The substance of Springsteen paled next to the instant mythology whipped up  around him – fast-food iconography (Bruce as the Next Dylan). The Great White  Hype was not nearly as tricky or sly or slippery or mysterious as Dylan. No,  nobody could possibly peg Springsteen as a literary gamesman, nobody could  accuse him of putting us on – just Bruce the all-American, safe as apple  pie. You didn’t need any imagination to figure out who he was.

Rarely would you read a bad review of him (although if you check the Gazette  critique of his 1977 Montreal debut at Place des Arts, by yours truly – well,  enough self-aggrandizement).

Edgy is an overused word in the rock-critic realm, but Bruce has no edge. He  may work up a sweat in performance, but his audience doesn’t need to. There’s  nothing disturbing about The Boss. One of his most popular chestnuts, the  plaintive My Hometown, is nothing but an alt-culture Hallmark greeting card.

Springsteen seldom deals in specifics, rather, he indulges in caricature,  like “The banker grows fat/Working man grows thin.”

Caramanica says that his lyrics “feel more crudely drawn than 1970s Saturday  morning cartoon villains … He’s picking obvious targets, painting them with wide  brushes, then taking cannon shots that can’t miss … My feeling is that since The  Rising, his skepticism and grand-scale empathy have ceded some space to make  room for hubris, smugness and chest thumping … If you believe We Are Alive, then  striking 1877 Maryland railroad workers rest alongside Birmingham civil rights  agitators and also next to Mexican border-crossers. One cause at a time, please.  And when Springsteen intones, ‘I’ll mow your lawn, clean the leaves out your  drain,’ the sodden workingman empathy literally made me nauseous.”

The first major American critic to rail against the essence of Bru-u-u-ce was  Richard Meltzer in SPIN magazine, November 1985 (still in the glow of Born in  the U.S.A.), in a special pay-homage-to-Bruce issue. The screed was titled  Bruce’s Transparent Dogshit and, although it raised eyebrows and hackles, it was  nevertheless included in the 2010 anthology SPIN Greatest Hits: 25 Years of  Heretics, Heroes and the New Rock ’n’ Roll. (Guess who the heretic is: The  author’s introduction to the piece, the shortest one in the book, was simply, “Deconstructing Springsteen. Lousy gig but someone has got to do it. Done!”)

Meltzer begins by identifying Bruce as the “youth-demographic Wayne  Newton/Bette Midler.” Then: “I’ve rarely been able to even look at the boring  little prick without muttering expressions like ‘master of ersatz,’ ‘the  absolute voice of the status quo’ or ‘the emperor’s new jeans and workshirt.’ Pompous as knee jerk responses go, maybe, but here’s this guy, see, the absolute  non-irony of whose most prevalent guise (‘earnestness’) has always struck me, on  sheer scale alone, as more than a trifle pompous incarnate.” As for  Springsteen’s search for the “real” America, as evidenced yet again in We Take  Care of Our Own, Meltzer harrumphs, “Is there anything grimmer and greyer than  the Myth of America? I am sick of the Myth of America.” (He finishes his screed: “Next we’ll be asked to write about Garfield the Cat.”)

The requisite Rolling Stone interview coincides with Wrecking Ball’s release.  Interviewed by the adoring fellow Jersey boy Jon Stewart, it’s long-winded,  sanctimonious and surprisingly self-righteous. Asked to react to a Times  critic’s view that We Take Care of Our Own is “jingoistic,” Bruce snaps, “Whoever said that, they need a smarter pop writer.” (A more gracious response  would’ve been “everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”)

Concerning his mission in songcraft, he is amazingly presumptuous. He seeks  to “broaden people’s perspective, broaden people’s vision and assist people in  seeing through to, for lack of a better word, the inner reality of things.”

Oh, so that’s what he does.

Springsteen says he was stuck for an ending that would tie things up: “How do  you turn this into something that provides both clarity and inspiration? Because  that, along with fun and entertainment, is what I think my job is.” (Hey, good  to know!) So he scavenged around his archives and discovered Land of Dreams,  written as “the current manifesto” for the E Street Band’s 1998 tour. “In other  words, we have stood for these things in the past.” In the interview he says  this more than twice, just so you know he’s the real deal.

The same issue of Rolling Stone contains a delightful photo of Chuck Berry  flanked by Leonard Cohen and Keith Richards at an awards ceremony. Three aged  all-time greats in full smile. Now, that’s a bona fide reality sandwich.

rodriguez.musika@yahoo.ca

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Bruce+Springsteen+Beyond+myth/6374813/story.html#ixzz1qTRLztj4

Live from The Apollo Theatre Setlist & Review

Setlists: 2010 – 2012

 March 9, 2012 / Apollo Theater / New York, NY Notes: On June 5, 1992, Bruce Springsteen warmed up for his first tour without the E Street Band by sending out a “dress rehearsal” show live over the radio airwaves. While the tour itself wouldn’t start for another ten days, listeners everywhere (and a handful of contest winners in-house) got a sneak peek at the upcoming tour. Twenty years later, and Bruce is doing it again: this time not on terrestrial radio but via satellite on SiriusXM; this time with the E Street Band, with an album headed up the charts instead of down, and not from a “mysterious location” but rather from the place where stars are born and legends are made, Harlem’s historic Apollo Theatre.

Thing is, it didn’t feel like a tour warm-up. It wasn’t touted as a rehearsal show, and it didn’t feel like one — it felt like a special night curated for the Apollo Theater. Which, no matter what takes shape further on down the road, is exactly what it was: from the band coming out and rubbing Harlem’s legendary Tree of Hope as they each took the stage, to Springsteen’s delightedly over-the-top self-introduction (“A young man who was born in the U.S.A…. won an Academy Award… the hardest working white man in show business!”) to the tributes to soul greats, the special appearance of vocalist Michelle Moore, and the blasting apart of the fourth wall that separates performer and audience in this 1,200-seater. By the time Springsteen began scaling the walls, climbing into opera boxes and out onto the edge of the lower mezzanine, we’d already lost track of how many times he’d ventured into the crowd. It was hardly something he’ll be able to repeat at a Corporate Arena Near You.

That said, the new album got a workout, giving a taste of things to come, with all songs performed on Fallon returning plus the tour debuts of “Shackled and Drawn,” “We Are Alive,” and “Rocky Ground.” “Shackled” was a Sessions Band-style tour de force, with all the vocalists down front on an a capella intro, even Garry stepping to the mic, and Cindy Mizelle bringing it home at the end: “I want everybody to stand up and be counted tonight!” “Rocky Ground” brought the album’s featured vocalist Michelle Moore to the stage, with Bruce recalling fondly how long they’ve worked together, from Asbury Park holiday shows to The Rising and beyond.

“On our new record,” Bruce said, “our motto is dancing and crying.” And hand-in-hand with that theme of resilience in the face of adversity and loss, the spirit of Clarence Clemons was very much with us tonight — Bruce and the E Street Band’s first full show without him. There was a collective breath held as the “Badlands” solo approached in slot three… and an exhale of relief as Jake Clemons stepped out of the five-horn line-up to do his Uncle (and Bruce and the band and the song and himself) proud. It wasn’t much later that Bruce addressed the loss directly, honoring the Big Man, his fans, the band, and our communal bond in the process.

He touched on it first in a mission statement after “Death to My Hometown”: “We’re so glad to be here with you tonight at the legendary Apollo Theater. We’re glad to be here again — we’ve missed you. Tonight we’ve got some old friends and some new friends with us… but our mission remains the same. We’re here to bring the power, hour after hour… we’re here to put a whoop-ass session on the recession… we’re here to bring a smile to your face, an extra beat to your heart, and to raise your spirits high in these hard times.”

But it was in the next song, a horn-heavy “My City of Ruins” with a newfound groove, that Springsteen met the elephant in the room head on. “Roll Call!” he shouted, introducing each member of the band, who each took a solo. And when they were done: “Are we missing anybody?” There was a tentative feeling in the crowd as a whole, and one of the most moving moments of the night was as we first wondered, is this really what he means? And the look on Bruce’s face as he beckoned said it all. He was giving us permission. “Are we missing anybody?” he asked again, and this time the crowd knew to respond. Soon he was telling us, “The only thing I can guarantee tonight… if you’re here and we’re here, they’re here.”

In the encore, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” brought an even more moving salute to Clarence, Bruce first holding out the mic to the crowd for “kid you better get the picture,” and soon bringing the song to a complete halt after “the Big Man joined the band,” the crowd hollering in tribute, the moment stretching out before the entire horn section played that quick, signature solo in unison.

These were moments when we acknowledged loss, particularly of Danny and Clarence. Important moments that it felt like we needed, as an audience, and that reminded us of the courage it must take for Bruce and the band to soldier on without their longtime brothers in arms. But we didn’t feel just loss all night. We celebrated, we raged, we gasped (jesus, don’t let him fall off the balcony, or the tour is over before it starts!), we grooved, and we dug deep into “Soul Music! The Apollo! Home of the Gods and the True Temple of Soul!” In a lengthy and clearly heartfelt salute to the music that is inseparable from the venue and that also nurtured his own musical soul, Bruce described it as “an education.” Geography: “Funky Broadway.” Math: “99 and a Half Won’t Do.” Religion: Aretha. Sex Education: Marvin Gaye. “The Wisdom of Solomon… Burke! And of course, the poetry of Smokey Robinson.” So many powerful vocalists onstage brought their talents to bear on a superbly arranged “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and Bruce kept the soul train rolling right into Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789,” as he gave Eddie Vedder and his wall-scaling a run for the money.

The final song of the night, after mixing in more of his own staples like “The Rising” and “Thunder Road,” was both another soul classic and a promise to the thousands of fans listening in all night on SiriusXM: Atlanta, Greensboro, Tampa, Boston… “Hold on… we’re comin’!”

[Through the weekend, watch "Death to My Hometown" at brucespringsteen.net; tune in to E Street Radio for encore broadcasts on SiriusXM. A longtime favorite Springsteen charity, WhyHunger was in the house as a beneficiary of the night.] - report and photographs by Christopher Phillips

Setlist: We Take Care of Our Own Wrecking Ball Badlands Death to My Hometown My City of Ruins The E Street Shuffle Jack of All Trades Shackled and Drawn Waitin’ on a Sunny Day The Promised Land Mansion on the Hill The Way You Do The Things You Do 634-5789 The Rising We Are Alive Thunder Road * * * Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore) Land of Hope and Dreams/People Get Ready Tenth Avenue Freeze-

Springsteen has…

Bruce Springsteen performs on stage. | Reuters Photo

Springsteen has broad appeal because he is more descriptive than  prescriptive, some say. | Reuters

Political observers have been tracking The Boss closely for decades.
By TIM MAK | 3/5/12 10:03  PM EST

Bruce Springsteen has a history of left-of-center activism, and there’s an  often subtle progressive undercurrent to his lyrics, but conservative music  lovers keep coming home to “The Boss.”

And there’s no doubt Republican fans — count former Minnesota Gov. Tim  Pawlenty and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie among them — are just as eagerly  awaiting the Tuesday release of Springsteen’s new album, “Wrecking Ball,” as  liberals.

So how does Springsteen maintain his appeal among conservatives  despite his activism for Democratic politicians?

Some of the pull is from lyrics that often are couched in terms that appeal  to the right, such as frequent references to family, flags and community.

“He uses conservative language for progressive messages, and he delivers them  through a populist mechanism — rock music,” Christopher Borick, a professor at  Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College who teaches a class on Springsteen, told  POLITICO. “He references flags; he references Jesus; he references God. His  approach to lyrics, from a political sense, often uses conservative-tinged words  that might resonate with voters who are by no means liberal.”

And “he doesn’t call out names,” Borick added, noting that despite  Springsteen’s well-documented criticism of the Bush administration, his songs  don’t reference the president.

“For me, his personal politics are heartbreaking,” said Evan Sayet, a  conservative blogger and comedian. “But his lyrics, over and over again, mention  some of the fundamentals of conservatism — that though life is horrible, it’s  not horrible enough for you to need a handout. When he talks about interpersonal  relationships, or the responsibilities we have, one on one … he almost — unconscious to himself — has a conservative message.”

Others suggest that Springsteen has broad appeal because he is more  descriptive than prescriptive.

“He is fair to his audience. We expect politicians to talk about problems and  solutions. Artists are a bit freer; they can talk about the problems of life.  For him to point fingers of blame at people in government and finance and the  like, that’s a message that has some universal appeal,” said Dan McLaughlin, an  editor at the conservative RedState.

“When I listen to ‘Born to Run,’ I’m hearing about a man who is struggling to  find happiness, not a song about someone who is trying to find happiness and  wants the government to step in,” Mike Brownfield, assistant director of  strategic communications at the right-of-center Heritage Foundation, told  POLITICO.

“There is a lot of imagery in his music that speaks to the working class,  every guy — this resonates with conservatives,” he adds.

Borick called it Springsteen’s “glorification of the working man.”

Sometimes, conservative listeners say, it’s best to leave politics behind and  just go to a Springsteen concert.

“It’s one thing to play at a campaign event, and it’s another to talk at a  concert where people have paid money to attend and beat them over the head with  your politics. He’s managed to keep a little bit of separation, even to this  day, about the events that are political and the events that are concerts,” said  McLaughlin.

“When you go to a concert, it’s not a political rally; it’s a good time to  hear some rock and roll,” noted Brownfield.

“Wrecking Ball” promises to be an album with perhaps an even clearer  progressive message than his others — one that denounces income inequality and  economic injustice in the era of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“Disenfranchised workers, the lack of compassion for the disadvantaged, these  are things that Springsteen has written about in his career, but he is, in a  number of songs in the album, driving them home harder than ever,” said  Borick.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73633.html#ixzz1oJ3lzBVq

“I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get  waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times. He is no whiner,  and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems  punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: ‘Born in the USA!’” columnist  George Will wrote in a Washington Post column in 1984, before Springsteen’s  political views became more well known.

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Even after Springsteen endorsed Democratic presidential  nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, conservative figures, like  Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, and Christie, the New Jersey governor,  remained loyal.

Pawlenty, interviewed by pop-culture website Glittarazzi  in 2011, said his favorite artist was Springsteen. “I like Bruce Springsteen a  lot. … If I had to do an all-time [favorite], it would have to be Bruce  Springsteen,” Pawlenty said.

Asked by The  New York Times in 2009 how he would react if Springsteen endorsed his  Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine, over him, Christie promised he would remain a  dedicated fan. “I was a fan 34 years ago. I’d be a fan afterward,” Christie, who  has attended an astounding 120 concerts, said. “It is now just too much a part  of my life.”

About Obama, Springsteen recently said, “I still support the president, but  there are plenty of things that I thought took a long time and would have been  closed by now,” according to the AFP. “There’s not as many middle-class or  working-class voices heard in the administration” as he had expected.

Liberals and conservatives will find room for interpretation in the first  single on the new album, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

“We take care of our own / Wherever this flag’s flown,” sings  Springsteen.

That can be heard as a call for families and local communities to help those  in need — a concept with deep roots in conservatism.

“This is very much a message that you hear echoed by conservatives — responsibility for one’s self and immediate family,” said Borick.

However, the song’s reference to “New Orleans / From the muscle to the bone /  From the shotgun shack to the Superdome/ We yelled ‘help’ but the cavalry stayed  home” draws attention to poverty and the failure of government to act to stave  off disasters both unpredictable and obvious — not your typical conservative  fare.

No matter, Sayet said, admitting that while there is an alternative  explanation for the song, he’s going to listen to it the way he wants to hear  it.

“I’m going to embrace it as it fits with my way of thinking — we do, we take  care of our own, our families, our neighbors, our communities,” the conservative  comedian said.

McLaughlin added, “One of the things that you’ve seen in this political  moment from everybody — from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the tea party  movement — is an expression [of] widespread disenchantment with our  institutions, with our leaders. This album is going to be controversial, but it  won’t drive away listeners who have been fans for years.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/73633_Page2.html#ixzz1oJ3KsJDn

EXCLUSIVE: WHY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SIRIUS XM & “WHY-HUNGER” ROCK!

Published on: March 2, 2012
Special Report by BARRY LEVINE, National Enquirer Executive Editor/Director of News
Photography by: Getty Images Entertainment

“Make a difference in the life of ONE child!” That’s a recent Twitter post from the big-hearted “Boss” himself, Bruce Springsteen.

The New Jersey-rooted rocker added the word “Join” after his heartfelt proclamation. And what he meant was for all of us Bruce fans to join in his fight against poverty.

It’s a battle he’s been courageously waging behind the scenes for a long, long time — working alongside the outstanding Manhattan-based non-profit organization called “WhyHunger,” which is led by Bill Ayres, who is a saint of a man.

Now, add SiriusXM to this rocking, winning group!

Celebrating 10 years of satellite radio, SiriusXM is bringing Bruce to Harlem for a special concert for their radio subscribers on March 9th  at NYC’s famed Apollo Theater – the show comes three days after the release of Bruce’s great new album “Wrecking Ball,” which comes along with, as The Wall Street Journal points out, “a healthy helping of social consciousness.”

SiriusXM’s president Scott Greenstein says: “Bruce’s music, now more than ever, reflects the attitudes and controversies and the personal and national conversations of our time” – that’s why he’s showcasing “one of the most enduring superstars of popular music” to perform “in one of the most intimate and historic settings in the world.”

But what may not make every headline is what is most important here – it’s that SiriusXM, on behalf of their employees along with Bruce and his E Street Band, will be making a contribution to WhyHunger as part of its “Sound of Change” initiative, a program designed to generate awareness, action and funds for designated charitable causes.

As incredible as this concert surely will be, it’s important to remember that there’s people – many of them hungry children — who need help.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview provided to this website,  Bill Ayres tells us about WhyHunger:  “We started the organization in 1975, and one of the first things that we did was to talk to a whole bunch of congressmen, and we got President Carter to do the first presidential commission on world hunger. What we had learned in the meantime – and this is something that’s very important for us, right at the root of who we are – was two things: one is that the root cause of hunger is poverty; the root cause of poverty is powerlessness.

“We believe that the solutions come largely from the bottom up, not from the top down. We work with about 8,500 community-based organizations around the country, and many dozens all over the world. Our focus is really being a grassroots support organization. We try to help these organizations that are right on the cutting edge of some of the folks who are not just giving people a sandwich or a bag of food, but are helping people to become self-reliant.

“You’ve got to do things from the community up. You cannot come up with a great idea and think that everybody is going to jump on it and think it’s wonderful and be able to do it. We’ve seen all kinds of wonderful, innovative ideas that go no place because they then get sort of infused into a place that either doesn’t want them or doesn’t know how to do them. You really need to get the support of the community before any real change can happen.”

Bill, a legendary talk-show host on NYC’s WPLJ/95.5 FM radio, co-founded WhyHunger with the late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, who died in a 1981 car accident.

Bill has never let go of the fight – and continues to work hard as WhyHunger’s Executive Director. And Bruce has been his wing man.

Along with many other musicians, Bruce is a founding member of “Artists Against Hunger & Poverty.” For some 20 years, he’s raised funds and awareness for WhyHunger’s grassroots partners in the U.S., Canada and Europe by inviting them to have presence at his concerts.

In 2005, Bruce partnered with WhyHunger on Hard Rock International’s Signature Series shirt and pin, and in 2009, a 25th anniversary commemorative t-shirt, hat and pin in recognition of the release of his “Born in the USA” album all in an effort to help hungry children in the U.S. and around the world.

And if you’re a SiriusXM satellite listener, and you get to hear the historic E Street Band concert from the Apollo, remember that WhyHunger also needs your help – and your attention.

As Bruce tweeted, “Make a difference in the life of ONE child. Join.”

Here’s some key facts from WhyHunger that everybody should know:

  • 50 million Americans, including 17 million children are hungry
  • Annually, 37 million Americans rely on emergency food assistance from soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks for food for themselves and their families. That includes nearly 14 million children and 3 million seniors.
  • 1.02 billion people in the world are hungry.

If you know of anyone who needs immediate help, The National Hunger Hotline is at 866-3-HUNGRY

FOR more information, please check out the following websites:

www.whyhunger.org

www.siriusxm.com 

www.brucespringsteen.net

Springsteen: More Fanfares for Those Common Men

Bruce Springsteen’s new album “Wrecking Ball” comes out Tuesday.

Thanks to the The New York Times’s pop critics Jon Pareles and Jon Caramanica discuss Bruce Springsteen’s album “Wrecking Ball,” to be released Tuesday by Columbia.

JON PARELES Jon, if good intentions were all that mattered, Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” would be a shoo-in for album of the year — which is, not coincidentally, an election year. “Wrecking Ball” is Springsteen’s latest manifesto in support of the workingman, and his direct blast at fat cats and banksters who derailed the economy. It’s sincere, ambitious and angry, which can lead to mixed outcomes. It also — which may be a surprise on an album billed as a broadside — holds some of Springsteen’s most elaborate studio concoctions since “Born to Run.”

The album has been growing on me with each play; it starts out heavy-handed, but by the end it moves from duty to pleasure. Springsteen definitely picked the right title song. “Wrecking Ball,” written from the first-person point of view of the old Giants Stadium, turns a conceit into a homily into a hoot. But he was less strategic making “We Take Care of Our Own” the first single. In my imagination he was watching that Republican debate when someone in the audience cheered the idea of letting the uninsured die, and his sense of duty kicked in; he thought he should write a song that insists compassion is patriotic. It’s a trademark E Street Band sound, from the chord changes to the glockenspiel to the backup vocals, and it feels awkward and hectoring. I don’t think, as you wrote after the Grammys, that it’s “jingoistic,” only that it tries to associate flag-waving nationalism with shared responsibility. But there’s much better stuff on the album.

JON CARAMANICA But, Jon, I too was born in the U.S.A., a country with a Constitution that guarantees the freedom of interpretation! We can talk about the intention of the author all day long — and certainly Bruce’s boomer army will do just that — but the text is far more ambiguous, and in plenty of places on this album, just outright flat.

I agree, it’s energizing to hear the type of ambitious arrangements that he’d largely abandoned when he retreated into rural bard mode. And the chill of hearing the booming sax solo on “Land of Hope and Dreams” drove me to the liner notes to confirm that, yes, it was Clarence Clemons. And “We Take Care of Our Own,” my lyrical bête noire, has the hardest-working music on the album.

But that energy is in service of deeply nebulous ideas. Even if I accept that Bruce is moving in the Pete Seeger tradition, there’s no ambiguity in Seeger’s vision, political or aesthetic. Bruce keeps it loose, though. Strip out the couple of post-Katrina references in that song, and what’s left is a tirade about locating American identity outside of government authority, a nationalism that supersedes even something petty like democracy.

It reminded me of Nashville ideologues like Trace Adkins and the slightly slipperier Toby Keith. Maybe Bruce can write some material for their new albums.

But no, fans will say: He takes on the big-money guys all over this album (though not the ones that financed and built Giants Stadium), but those lyrics feel more crudely drawn than 1970s Saturday morning cartoon villains. More showing, less telling.

PARELES What do you want from him, a tax plan? That points to the problem that only Springsteen has (give or take Neil Young). He’s the superstar who is supposed to be impeccably pure of heart and commerce, absolutely serious in his roles as the tribune of the working man and the voice of the (crumbling) American dream but still a full-tilt rock ’n’ roll entertainer.

So he’s in trouble if he gets too serious, in trouble if he leaves a loophole in a lyric, in trouble if he’s too bleak or didactic, in trouble if all he wants to do is think about girls in their summer clothes (though he’s actually thinking about mortality and loneliness).

Yet Springsteen has willingly and self-consciously shouldered that role, and has done it far differently from Pete Seeger, the folkie who proudly distrusts commercial pop. Springsteen is doing it as someone who wants to make fully produced recordings and get them heard on the radio, who sells out arenas and is not just populist but still genuinely popular. Face it — Lady Gaga doesn’t want to be Pete Seeger.

On “Wrecking Ball” he’s trying to stake out a God-and-country liberalism, a gospel of hard, sweaty work and earned income, while venting direct fury at vulture capitalists. He also comes out pro-immigrant, openly romantic (Kenny Chesney could have a hit with “You’ve Got It”) and reverent to the point of direct Bible allusions.

Where agitprop folkies would be doing this rhetorical heavy lifting over a righteously austere acoustic guitar, Springsteen only starts there. The music lifts this album out of its hard-times gloom, and charges off all over the place: roots Americana, electric guitars, synthesizers, orchestra. He’s barking “Death to My Hometown” flanked by Celtic pennywhistle over sampled Sacred Harp gospel singers (via Alan Lomax). When he sings about visiting a graveyard and remembering the dead in “We Are Alive,” what bubbles up but the country-mariachi bounce of “Ring of Fire”? It’s not all sodden earnestness.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Mr. Springsteen performing at the Grammy Awards last month.

CARAMANICA I would like the title of the next Springsteen album to be his effective tax rate. And some liner notes about the Buffett Rule, maybe.

But when he does get specific on this album, it’s disorienting. If you believe “We Are Alive,” then striking 1877 Maryland railroad workers rest alongside Birmingham civil rights agitators and also next to Mexican border crossers. One cause at a time, please. And when Springsteen intones, “I’ll mow your lawn, clean the leaves out your drain” in “Jack of All Trades,” the sodden workingman empathy literally made me nauseous.

You say that Springsteen gets in trouble if all he thinks about are those evanescent summer girls, and maybe that’s true, but one of the high points on this album for me is “You’ve Got It.” It’s Bruce at his prime sexiness, that heavy-breathing oratory of his aimed away from the laborers and the overlords and squarely at a tender young thing. “You’ve got it in your bones and blood/You’re real as real ever was,” he says, the hot air leaving a damp coat of lust on his target’s ear. He sounds predatory, lecherous, spent. It’s bracing.

That’s the Springsteen I find most provocative, the one who balances sensuality with dogma, who understands the body as a locus of pleasure, not just labor. When the music is joyous on this album, it does what his words and voice often cannot: generates goodwill. Let’s not talk about that Sam Cooke nod at the top of “Land of Hope and Dreams,” though.

PARELES You’ve definitely zeroed in on some of the weak spots. Yes, “Jack of All Trades” verges on self-parody. And the geographical and political spread in “We Are Alive” is startling — though with Calvary Hill in sight, I don’t think that’s supposed to be some particular graveyard in Jersey, and by the time the banjo comes plinking in, I don’t really care.

One odd thing Springsteen does on this album is to all but set aside one of his major skills: storytelling through a single character or two. Giants Stadium and the guy in “You’ve Got It” end up being the album’s most three-dimensional characters.

It’s as if Springsteen assigned himself to merge Woody Guthrie and gospel, all archetypes and declarations. Which means the lyric booklet isn’t the place to start. If you read “Shackled and Drawn” or “Rocky Ground,” you think they’re going to be a chore. But “Shackled and Drawn” genuinely shakes its fist and howls, while “Rocky Ground” — even with an unnecessary rap shoehorned in — ends up redemptive.

There’s been a lot of triumphal, fanfaring rock and hip-hop around. Just for a change it’s encouraging to hear a big sound that’s linked not to individual aggrandizement or indulgence, but to something more unselfish.

CARAMANICA And yet this possibly unselfish or maybe even generous album, and artist, inspires so much self-righteousness. I’d say take me back to “Nebraska,” but I fear the only thing worse than late-Bruce boosterism is early-Bruce nostalgia.

You’re totally right about the lack of characters here. He’s losing definition in his voice, but in ways that are less interesting than Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Tom Waits. He’s picking obvious targets, painting them with wide brushes, then taking cannon shots that can’t miss.

But here’s the thing: The idea that there’s only one sort of Bruce listener is outmoded, a vestige of leftist ideological privilege. My feeling is that since “The Rising,” his skepticism and grand-scale empathy have ceded some space to make room for hubris, smugness and chest thumping, and that’s made room for all sorts of readings, all types of embraces.

I agree with you about “Shackled and Drawn.” It feels like a genuine modern-day blues. But that line near the end gets me: “It’s still fat and easy up on Banker’s Hill/Up on Banker’s Hill, the party’s going strong.” I bet they’re listening to Bruce.

PARELES In the end I don’t think we’re all that far apart on this album. Though I like it better than “Magic” or “Working on a Dream,” I’m not touting it up there alongside his first seven albums — seven albums! — or “The Rising.” We’ve picked at its flaws and missteps; it’s got plenty of ups and downs.

But smugness? Hubris? I don’t hear that. It’s not as if Springsteen has been some pampered, out-of-touch rock star who was totaling up his sponsorship deals when he noticed Occupy Wall Street on his giant flat-screen TV last year. This has been his main mission at least since “Born to Run”: Think about America, especially its embattled working class, and sympathize, analyze, console, commemorate, compress, speak up, give everyone a rousing chorus.

Springsteen has been listening to arenas singing along for three decades. It’s an act of will for him to still search for musical and verbal nuance while staying terse, to not be condescending or demagogic, to say what he considers important, knowing how loud it’s going to be. Sure, he’s firing a cannon this time. At least he’s firing it in the right direction.