Working on a Dream (2009)


1. Outlaw Pete 2. My Lucky Day 3. Working on a Dream 4. Queen of the Supermarket 5. What Love Can Do 6. This Live 7. Good Eye 8. Tomorrow Never Knows 9. Life Itself 10.Kingdom of Days 11.Surprise, Surprise 12.The Last Carnival 13.The Wrestler

 

Released only a little over one year since his last album Magic , in many ways this can be seen as a "companion" piece. Same band, same producer, same overall sound. Sure, the "theme" is presented as different. His last album was one of "despair" and this one is one of "hope". You can see some of the differences in the music, but the most glaring difference is only represented in the album cover. On Magic he looks like a mug shot for a DUI violator, whereas here, he looks like some new age advert for some fashionable new hippy product.

Like his last album, this one has some very good songs on it, but it also has some songs that don't seem to go anywhere and bog the whole experience down a bit. You could, maybe, blame this on the production. This is arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, yet a lot of the musicianship is buried under layers of over production. In other words, it's tamed down too much. Most of his fans prefer Magic over this one, but I favor this one slightly. To me it has more high quality songs and less filler - which is about the only distinguishing feature that I can make out between the two records.

Like the last album, he starts off the CD in a very big way with the western-ish Outlaw Pete that has to rival some of his best songs ever, complete with authentic chug-a-lug sounds emulating a train going through barren desert wastelands. This is one of those eight minute songs that never feels like it's eight minutes. He follows with two of his "happiest" or "hopeful" songs ever in My Lucky Day and the inspiring Working on a Dream that you have to wonder if it was written in the inspiration of new president Barrack Obama. Springsteen has always been a big political guy, but fortunately he lets his music do most of the political preaching for him. So he doesn't overdo it at all here.

Things start to go south with Queen of the Supermarket, a song about some loser in love with a checkout girl at the local grocery store. He may have been able to pull this off when he was thirty five years younger, but hearing these sentiments sang by him today just makes him sound like an old pervert. A lot of the rest of the album is hit and miss as well. Some songs end up sounding too much like other ones, and you can't really distinguish some of the tracks from each other - even after repeated listens.

He does do a great job on the heavily blues influenced Good Eye and then manages to segue in a completely different style on Tomorrow Never Knows which is his best (albeit there are few) Country-Western interpretation that he ever attempted. His tribute to recently deceased E Street Band member Danny Federici, The Last Carnival, is an incredibly beautiful tribute. Why he didn't perform this song during the tour that supported the album is beyond me. The "bonus" track is also quite moving and in the same style - The Wrestler is the humbling sounding track to the movie of the same name starring Micky Rourke.

The positive experiences far outweigh the negative ones overall, giving the listener their money's worth. One would hope soon, though, that he might get a little bit tougher sounds out of his next releases - and maybe bring back a little bit more of The Boss into Bruce Springsteen.

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