Saturday, January 31, 2009

A 12-minute Party...

What a sight to behold; Bruce Springsteen, along with his faithful E Streeters, doing his first press conference for the Superbowl Halftime Performance since 1987. Great to see Bruce and the guys in great shape. And we also learned a few new things:
Bruce knows shit about Football: "When I hear Steelers, I think Terry Bradshaw"!
Nils Lofgren is rooting for the Arizona Cardinals.
Patti Scialfa is making a new album.
Max Weinberg's loyalty is with the E Street Band.
And there'll be a 2nd U.S. leg of the upcoming tour.

This is gonna be one kick-ass Superbowl Halftime Performance!!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


An artist has got to be constantly in a state of becoming --- Bob Dylan

I'll tell you what's the problem with Bruce Springsteen. He's so good at what he does. He sets the bar so high for his records (not to mention his three hour legendary live shows) that you'd think they're impossible for him to top. Take, for example, 1984's Born In The USA, Bruce's top-selling album and possibly the greatest album of the 80's. The E Street Band then went on a recording hiatus for 18 years, till they returned with 2002's The Rising, Bruce's full fledged album with the band. Many critics and fans were skeptical as to whether Bruce could still write and make music that could stand with his previous records like The River, Born To Run, and Darkness On The Edge Of Town. He still could.

The Rising was certainly not his best work, but it was a modern classic. It still is. At a time when America was at its darkest period in its history (Sep 11 aftermath), The Rising provided us with an outlet for hope, reconciliation and renewal of faith. After another successful world tour ('02-'03), Bruce took a break from the band and did Devils & Dust and The Seeger Sessions, and also toured in support of the albums. Then in 2007, came Magic.

Bruce Springsteen had outdone himself yet again. Magic was a musical and lyrical triumph, reminiscent of Born To Run. And though it didn't break any new ground, this record was a long time coming. It gave us a glimpse of America living under the Bush Administration during the past eight years. Magic ranks in my top 5 all-time Bruce Springsteen records.

Less than one and a half years later, Working On A Dream, Bruce's 16th studio record is released. And I'll start by saying it's his most unusual record to date. Firstly, there's no real underlying theme here, as opposed to his previous records--not that's anything wrong with that. And it's not as good as Magic. Not even close. If Magic were a double album, Working On A Dream would probably be the second disc--simply because most the songs on the new record sound like Magic outtakes! Despite this fact, it's no doubt that Bruce has been doing a lot of experimenting on this record. But after listening to it without all these external factors in mind, Working On A Dream is, simply put, a brilliant record.

Most of the songs here were written and recorded right after Magic and during breaks in the Magic tour. Lyrically, they're different because they don't fit the dark theme on Magic. This is in no way, a political record, but if it wasn't for Barack Obama and his historical election victory, Working On A Dream wouldn't have been possible. I'll provide a song-by-song review:

1. Outlaw Pete - This is Bruce's longest opening song; eight minutes to be exact. Epic, in every sense of the word, Bruce channels Sergio Leone, Ennio Morricone (the 'Man with the Harmonica' theme), and yes, even Kiss (there's a refrain that sounds exactly like I Was Made For Lovin' You). This is the E Street Band doing a Spagetthi Western musical. Bruce proves he still has the narrative songwriting chops (think Ghost Of Tom Joad).

2. My Lucky Day - Probably the most 'E-Street' sounding tune on this record. Fun, simple and catchy, with lots of guitar--this will be a great opening song for the new tour.

3. Working On A Dream - I can see why Bruce named it as his album title. The lyrics are kinda cliche, and I can certainly do without the really cheesy whistling. This is one of those songs where I actually like the verses more than the choruses. But sometimes, less is more.

4. Queen Of The Supermarket - This sounds nothing like the song title (and what a weird title it is!). Bruce sings about unrequited love and it contains a really strange musical outtro. I found myself liking the lyrics more and more after subsequent listens.

5. What Love Can Do - I'm starting to like this one. Bruce himself said that this was supposed to be a 'love in a time of Bush' mediation. This should have been the first single, in my opinion.

6. This Life - One can't help but notice the similarities between this tune and Girls In Their Summer Clothes. But I love it when Bruce channels The Beach Boys and uses the Phil Spector 'Wall Of Sound'. He also stretches his vocal range here.

7. Good Eye - This is a killer blues tune, with banjo and the now famous bullet mic (listen to the Magic tour version of Reason To Believe and you'll know what I mean). I think that's the reason why they decided not to put Night With The Jersey Devil (also a blues song) on this record.

8. Tomorrow Never Knows - The E Street Band does the Seeger Sessions. A filler that doesn't really belong on the record. But that's not to say I don't particularly like the song.

9. Life Itself - Definitely not something the E Street Band will do. I especially like the 12-string Rickenbacker, Eight Miles High vibe. It's good to know that Bruce is influenced by the Byrds. Another thing worth mentioning is Nils Lofgren playing backward guitar, that sounds like the Beatles' I'm Only Sleeping.

10. Kingdom Of Days - My favorite song on this album. It has a great gospel feel, and it sounds like a hymn you'd sing in church. The lush, beautiful strings give me the chills every time--and then it's over all too fast. This song would have made Roy Orbison proud.

11. Surprise, Surprise - Again (going back to Magic), this is like I'll Work For Your Love, but more heavy on the guitars. Great 60's pop vibe to it.

12. The Last Carnival - Last but not least, the tearjerker of the record. A fitting and very emotional tribute to Danny Federici (God bless him). Could this also be a sequel to Wild Billy's Circus Story? The song opens with an accordian, played by Danny's son, Jason, followed by Bruce's voice and his acoustic guitar. Towards the end, everything stops--and the E Street choir comes in and fades out slowly...

13. The Wrestler - Though a bonus track, it fits quite perfectly as the last song on the album. The lyrics are better understood after watching the film. It has already won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, but got snubbed at the Oscars nomination, which is just plain silly. This is one of the best songs Bruce has written in the past decade.

Bruce Springsteen has been constantly experimenting and trying out different kinds of stuff over the past years, and his efforts have paid off. One thing I also like about Working On A Dream is its production. It's obvious upon listening that it surpasses Magic in terms of sound quality, despite its dense orchestral arrangements. I guess Brendan O'Brien has finally learned his lesson! It'll be interesting to see what new songs the band will play on the tour and how they'll rework the arrangements onstage.

To close, Working On A Dream is Bruce Springsteen being happy and having fun (finally!). He's at a point in life where he, and many Americans, can finally see the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel (thanks to Obama). Just think about how many artists that age who are still making great new music and doing tours. This is truly a great time to be a Springsteen fan.

Working On A Dream is dedicated to Danny Federici (1950 - 2008).

Album Rating: 4/5

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rolling Stone Magazine

Surprise, surprise! Bruce has made it on the cover of RS for the 14th time. David Fricke (my favorite RS writer) did the cover story. Here's a link to one of the features:
The Band on Bruce

What's even more surprising is RS giving Working On A Dream a full five stars!! Hardly a classic record, in my opinion, but this ain't no 'kiss-ass' review:
Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream Review

In fact, RS has given very positive reviews for most of Springsteen's previous record releases:

Magic - 5/5
The Seeger Sessions - 4/5
Devils & Dust - 4.5/5
The Rising - 5/5
The Ghost Of Tom Joad - 3/5
Human Touch & Lucky Town - 4/5
Tunnel Of Love - 5/5
Born In The U.S.A. - 5/5
Nebraska - 4.5/5
The River - 4/5
Darkness On The Edge Of Town - 5/5
Born To Run - 5/5
The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle - 4/5
Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ - 4/5

Monday, January 19, 2009

Come On Up For The Rising...

Bruce Springsteen opened the Obama Inaugural Concert at the historical Lincoln Memorial on a very cold and chilly Sunday afternoon, in front of 500,000 people. He played a moving version of The Rising, backed up by a huge gospel choir. Hands down, this is the best version I've ever heard him do. He also closed the show with Pete Seeger (who's 90!) with Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land.

P.S. In case you didn't know, The Rising is the official Obama campaign song.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Exclusive: New Bruce Springsteen Interview

This is the first of probably many more interviews and articles about Bruce's new record. Here, he opens up about Bush, Obama, and supermarkets!

Bruce Springsteen To Guest Deejay On E Street Radio!!

Yes, finally! The man himself!

Official Press Release:

SIRIUS XM Radio announced today that Bruce Springsteen will guest deejay a special on E Street Radio, the exclusive commercial-free channel dedicated to the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The Bruce Springsteen special will air on E Street Radio SIRIUS channel 10 and XM channel 58.

Bruce Springsteen sat down with Dave Marsh, SIRIUS XM host and music journalist, to play music hand-picked by Bruce from his personal record collection. Bruce will share how he discovered each song and what he likes about the music in his commentary. SIRIUS XM listeners will hear Bruce playing a variety of music ranging from folk songs to contemporary music including hip hop and progressive rock.

The first edition of the Bruce Springsteen guest deejay special will premiere on Monday, January 19 at 4 pm ET and will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, January 20 at 12 midnight and 8 am ET; Wednesday, January 21 at 11 am ET; Thursday, January 22 at 6 pm ET; Friday, January 23 at 4 pm ET; Saturday, January 24 at 12 midnight and 8 am ET; and Sunday, January 25 at 4 pm ET.

The second edition of Bruce's guest deejay special will premiere on Monday, January 26 at 4 pm ET and will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, January 27 at 12 midnight and 8 am ET; Wednesday, January 28 at 11 am; Thursday, January 29 at 6 pm ET; Friday, January 30 at 4 pm ET; and Saturday, January 31 at 12 midnight and 8 am ET

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Working On A Dream: New Pics

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch
Photo Credit: Danny Clinch
Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

I've heard the album already, and I'll post the review by end of next week.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Golden Globes

No surprise that The Wrestler won Best Original Song at the Globes. But what's surprising was that Bruce Springsteen actually showed up for the awards! He made a sweet speech, thanking Mickey Rourke, of course, for approaching him to do the song. And he did it for no charge at all. It was also nice for Bruce to wish Clarence Clemons a happy birthday. But I'm more happy that Mickey won Best Actor. He really deserved it.

Let's hope Bruce will win his second Oscar. Another heavy contender is Clint Eastwood's song, Gran Torino, from the film. On a side note, Gran Torino is a bloody brilliant film and it's probably Eastwood's last acting role. He really nailed that part; he's like Dirty Harry, William Munning and all the previous bad-ass roles he played combined. Not his best directorial effort, but certainly his most unique film.

In other news, Bruce will be playing an inauguration concert for Barack Obama at D.C. Lincoln Memorial this weekend, together with artists like U2, James Taylor, John Mellencamp and Stevie Wonder. Something to look forward to this Sunday.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Superbowl Halftime Performance Preview

I think performing at the Superbowl Halftime Show is a great move for Bruce Springsteen. The game is broadcast live around the world and more than a billion people watch it. Everyone will get a chance to see how great Bruce and the E Street Band are on stage. What would even make a greater Superbowl experience for me will be if the Tennessee Titans play against the New York Giants and they beat the shit outta them. But I highly doubt that'll happen.

The only thing that concerns me (and probably many other Springsteen fans) is what songs the band will play during the show. This year's show will be about 12min(WTF??). Last year's one was rather disappointing. I absolutely love Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; but to see them perform a medley of songs wasn't what I expected. They played half of American Girl, half of I Won't Back Down, half of Running Down A Dream, and half of Free Fallin'! That was pretty laughable, but they did put up a good show.

Bruce'll probably play the hits, and at least one song from the upcoming record. Here's my setlist prediction:

1. Glory Days / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / Born In The USA
2. My Lucky Day

3. Born To Run

I seriously doubt Thunder Road will work in this situation, probably because of the intro. I really hope that the setlist won't turn into a medley. Springsteen songs will never work like that. But if it does happen, there'll be a huge shitstorm raining down in the BTX forums.

An excellent promo video:

Next week, I'll be posting more details on Working On A Dream and the follow-up tour...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Top 10 Records Of All Time

1. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run (1975)

If there's one album to sum up the whole genre of Rock & Roll and the definition of Rock & Roll music, this is it. Listening to this album is always a life changing experience. I listen to it religiously. It's like going to church; everybody gets a second chance.

2. Tom Petty - Wildflowers (1994)

This is the best sounding album I've ever heard. Everything here is so crystal clear. And the production by Rick Rubin is absolutely incredible; not to mention the beautiful string arrangements. There's all kinds of stuff here--blues romp, a little country/folk, slow burning rock & roll, ballads and plenty of 'soul'.

3. U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)

The Dublin quartet gained worldwide recognition on this album. I love the Edge's atmospheric guitars here. What amazes me is that the music manages to paint a vivid picture of a desolate American landscape. The lyrics are not really specific, and that's good, because the songs here can be interpreted on many different levels.

4. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Like A Rolling Stone broke tremendous boundaries in music. It totally changed the way a song could be written and performed. This record is impossibly brilliant. Dylan is still the greatest songwriter of all time, and every musician that came after him owes some sort of musical debt to him (seriously).

5. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

This is the ultimate mind-fuck album--a brilliant concept album about alienation. But whenever I listen to it, I'm always reminded of The Wizard Of Oz. This is one record where it's essential to listen to continuously from start to finish, without skipping any songs.

6. The Who - Who's Next (1971)

This is an essential for any record collection. I feel sorry for anyone who claims to be a music fan but hasn't listened to this. No one plays guitar like Pete Townshend. No one sings like Roger Daltery. No one plays bass like John Entwistle. And definitely no one plays drums like Keith fuckin' Moon.

7. The Beatles - Revolver (1966)

This is one of those 'Oh My God, it's fucking incredible' moments. But then again, every Beatles record is like that. Albums like Revolver, Rubber Soul and Sgt. Peppers constantly remind us why The Beatles are still the greatest band of all time.

8. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (1971)

Aside from being the greatest singer of all time (IMO), he too could write great social and political songs. This album is still very relevant in today's context. It's a shame Marvin Gaye isn't here anymore. He truly was God's gift to the world.

9. Billy Joel - The Stranger (1977)

I didn't know he could really play piano until I listened to this record. My favorite song is Scenes From An Italian Restaurant. A really great inspirational record.

10. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)

You can't think of 80's music without thinking of Thriller. Michael Jackson's influence on pop music is enormous. The songs here, though only nine, are incredibly catchy and calls for repeatedly listening.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Little Steven's Underground Garage

The best Rock & Roll radio show on the planet. No one does it like Steve Van Zandt. I think he's just one cool cat. This bad-ass motherfucker got lots of talent. He can act (I miss Silvio!!), play guitar (with the E Street Band), make great solo records, promote great new Rock & Roll music (Wicked Cool Records), and that's just the half of it. Now he's coming up with a whole new curriculum to teach middle school kids in America the history of Rock & Roll (! If only we had this kind of music education here in $ingapore.

I could go on forever about his radio show, The Underground Garage. But I'll just say this; Fuck mainstream radio. It only appeals to the Lowest Common Denominator and it's controlled by DJs with huge egos and who know shit about music. I don't think they even give a rat's ass about the music. They're just in it for the money. But Little Steven--He's different. He's the first DJ I heard in a long time who actually knows what he's talking about. He engages you. He connects with you. And he plays the coolest music you'll ever hear. He still sticks to the same model year after year: playing the Ramones, playing music that influenced the Ramones, and playing music that the Ramones influenced. Isn't that beautiful?

This reminds of me of that Tom Petty song, The Last DJ:
There goes the Last DJ Who plays what he wants to play
And says what he wants to say

There goes your freedom of choice

There goes the last human voice...

We now live in a world of vanishing freedoms. It's vital that we cling on to stuff like this what they still last.

The Underground Garage

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Wrestler

This is by far the best of movie of the year (For me, the movie year starts from March 2008 to February 2009, when the Oscars will be held). The great return of Mickey Rourke. I've never really seen his past movies, but I know he's like a B-grade actor and most of his stuff is pretty bad. Until Sin City came along. He had a small role there, but he killed. The Wrestler is probably his best film yet, and it's only fair that the Academy gives him a best actor nod. He plays an aging wrestler, whose glory days are far behind him, as he tries to make nice with his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachael Wood. The violent (and very bloody) wrestling scenes are as intense as those intimate scenes involving Mickey and Marisa Tomei (who plays a stripper). The final scene in the movie was one of the most heart wrenching ones I've seen in a long time.

Bruce Springsteen wrote the song The Wrestler for the end credits. I swear it's one of his best work in the past ten years. He'll probably win the Oscar for best original song again (his first one was Streets Of Philadelphia back in the mid 90's). And I also found out that Bruce and Mickey are good buddies and Mickey approached Bruce to do a song for the film, which he did--for free!

"I wrote Bruce a letter, because we've known each other over twenty years, and he knows what I used to be, or whatever. Where I went. What I'd been reduced to. I told him how I felt lucky now and didn't have to end up being this guy, being Randy (character from The Wrestler). A while later I got a call in the middle of the night: he said he'd written a little song, for nothing. It's fucking beautiful, right? I was honored he took the time, because he's a busy cat. I mean, I'm so goddam proud of this magical movie and to have Bruce's input... ain't nobody in Hollywood with all their millions can just ring the man and he'll do a song, y'know?"
- Mickey Rourke

Go watch the film.