Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Brilliance of Bruce

Around the first of December, word got to me that Bruce was releasing a new collection of recordings, roughly a year and a half after his wonderful "Magic" release (which, on first listen, I dismissed). It seemed to be too soon for him. He hasn't released LPs in this close proximity for years and I wondered if the old boy still had it in him. There were three videos that came out before the CD, "My Lucky Day","Life Itself" and the title track which piqued my interest and gave us a glimpse as to what this was about. "Working On A Dream" may be the best collection of songs since "Born In The USA" 25 years ago. He's back to his working class roots and although "The Rising" was fine, it seemed he was trying too hard to make a statement. His favorite subjects on this release are love, loss and work. These are things he knows well.

The disc opens with the weakest track "Outlaw Pete" although it has grown on me a bit. Rarely does a CD start with an 8 minute tune about a killer and on first listen, really put me off. But, like his best stuff, you have to get to know the song.
"My Lucky Day" is typical, lyrical Bruce. " the dark of this exile, I felt the grace of your smile, honey you're my lucky day...". The big man nails it in the middle and this is a great Bruce song. Video here
"Working On A Dream" is the one he sang at the Superbowl and this would feel comfortable on "Tunnel of Love". It an ode to the workingman and the woman he loves. Can't get much more basic than that. Instead of the whistle in the middle eight, I would have preferred to hear Clarence more than what's there. Video here
"Queen of the Supermarket" would fit on "Born To Run". He even drops an f-bonb on this one. He's in love with someone who is unobserved and plain, an observation he's been so keen on for years..."though a company cap covers her hair, nothing can hide the beauty waiting there."
"What Love Can Do" maybe the most pedestrain on the disc, but still a fine song written from the heart, with a great harmonica and violin middle eight and delivered with passion and soul.
"This Life"...probably my favorite on the disc and the one where he sounds like Roy Orbison. This would have been a hit in the mid 60's with key changes at the most oppoortune times. Wonderful music and word song "...this life, this life and then the next, with you I have been blessed, my universe at rest." Wow!
"Good Eye" is Bruce, his harmonica, and his imitation of John Fogerty. He pulls it off well, some rhythm and blues for a long, cold winter
"Tomorrow Never Knows" is Bruce getting a little bit country, again, he pulls it off with great songwriting chops with a shuffle beat and a fiddle ..."where the time goes, tomorrow never knows". He needs to do some work with Alison Krauss or someone of that ilk. Nashville Bruce.
"Life Itself" This is the darkest, deepest track on the CD and another one of my faves, the video is outstanding ..."why do the things we treasure most, slip away in time?".

"Kingdom of Days" is his love song to Patti. ..."and I count my blessings that you're mine for always, we laugh beneath the covers and count the wrinkles and the grays"..

"Surprise, Surprise" is a birthday song to someone and one I played last week. "May the rising sun caress and bless your soul for all time". Thanks, Bruce you, too.
"The Last Carnival" is tough to listen to. It's his tribute to Danny Federici, who died last year. It was Danny that asked Bruce to join HIS band. Emotional and very moving. It also features Danny's son on accordion. "Moonrise...the light that was in your eyes has gone away."

"The Wrestler" reminds me of Dylan. It fits the movie so well, just like "The Streets of Phildelphia" did. This is the coda to the disc .."have you ever seen a one armed man punching at nothing but the breeze, then you've seen me."

My only complaint is there isn't enough Clarence on the disc, but, from what I hear, he's not well. I will put this among the top five he has ever done. At this point in his career, it's hard to call it a masterpiece, but as close to one as someone of his age can get. It's an incredible disc from, in my opinion, the only songwriter in my lifetime that can approach what the Beatles did. He's that good.

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