CD Review of The Rising by Bruce Springsteen

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The Rising
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Sony
Released: 2000
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Bruce Springsteen admitted in a recent interview that it's taken him a long time in the post-"Born in the USA" years to come to grips with the fact that he got very rich off songs about poverty, American struggles and hardships, and folks who work very hard for very little. That landmark 1984 release, after all, defined The Boss's career (for better or worse), paid any bill he and his family will ever have for the coming five generations, and firmly planted him in the center of America's pasture, an icon for several ages and a perennial spokesman for living average.

Fast-forward 17 years to the awful events of September 11, 2001. Unlike the plight of poor farmers, unemployed steel workers or the growing homeless population, we as Americans were ALL struck with loss, enormous pain and unthinkable anger toward forces we really didn't even know. Enter Bruce Springsteen and, for the first time since 1984, his legendary E. Street Band and there again becomes the ideal breeding ground for harmonious commonality, the likes of which we haven't seen in this generation, maybe this lifetime.

"I don't remember how I felt…how my brave young life was forever changed, in a misty cloud of pink vapor," he documents on the brooding and sober "Nothing Man." Instead of wallowing in misery, however, Springsteen and producer Brendan O'Brien insist on keeping The Rising upbeat and positive, a polished nugget for the average rock and roll public to embrace for the coming 17 years. While the steady, radio-ready pace of "Lonesome Day" and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" recall more of the Tunnel of Love solo era Springsteen than earlier works, the raucous "Countin' on a Miracle" plays more like an outtake from 1980's The River. As with any 15-song presentation, there are a few insignificant moments here. The tribal "Worlds Apart" is clearly misplaced and likely would never see the light of day in concert. Meanwhile, "The Fuse" is little more than a re-worked "Streets of Philadelphia," and a piano ballad called "Paradise" could have well been saved for his next The Ghost of Tom Joad project.

There's no denying, however, the meat of this epic new offering hangs in the obvious future hits and career bookmarks. The first single, "The Rising," is as refreshingly straightforward as anything classic rock radio has been able to spin in years! "Further On (Up the Road) will certainly be a favorite out on tour, while "Mary's Place" simply epitomizes everything Springsteen: gritty lyrics, all-inspiring choruses of multiple background vocals, and no-frills guitars with layers of harmonica, B3 organ and Clarence Clemons' staple saxophone. Not to mention, the feverish anticipation which builds at song's end when Bruce escorts the bevy of background gospel-like singers through the progression of "turn it up…turn it up…turn it up…" will remind many of a similar explosion which occurs during the summit of "Born to Run."

By all accounts, this new record is far better than it ever had to be. Brace yourself, America. Springsteen is back and is brandishing a fearless new arsenal of instant favorites, tailor-made for you, me, and every one of your neighbors who have lived, loved, laughed, cried, won, lost or dreamed in the past year!

~Red Rocker