Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with Ron Aniello

It's been about five weeks since I've first heard Wrecking Ball, and I'm still getting a kick outta every single second of it, listening to the entire album at least three times each day. Three shows into the tour so far, and Bruce is already mixing up the setlists [link] quite a bit, with each night clocking in at least two and a half hours. By the time the band gets to the stadiums in Europe, they'll be well-oiled as hell and stretching their shows to three hours and beyond. Check out the Bruce Brunch exclusive interview with producer, Ron Aniello [link] for more on the making of Wrecking Ball and Bruce's extraordinary creative process behind it.

UPDATE: An RS interview with Nils and Stevie. Nice and long read. [link]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


A little part of me has always longed for hard rocking electrified versions of traditional American folk songs, better still if done by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. This isn't exactly a 'new' album, nor will it make everyone happy, but hey, it's the fucking Horse back together once again. Rolling Stone [link] has exclusive details about the upcoming record. Now how bout that Archives Vol. 2?


Friday, March 16, 2012

Bruce's Keynote Address @ SXSW

What a fantastic speech that was; very much entertaining as it was educational. I was actually hoping Springsteen talked about the state of the music industry; he mainly talked about his influences, covering doo-wop, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, The Animals, The Beatles, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, Phil Spector, in a beautiful, poetic way only a songwriter like him could. He's got an excellent command of the English language when it comes to public speaking. He had some advice to give for struggling, young musicians, which was humorous, but ironically true. And he cursed a hell of a lot too! The high point was when he played and sang The Animals' We Gotta Get Out Of This Place on the acoustic guitar, with pure conviction, after which he mentioned "That's every song I've ever written." Listening to the whole speech, one finds it hard not to come back with a fresh, new perspective on rock & roll music.


Bruce and the E Street Band also played a special show at SXSW, their second 'warm-up' gig before the tour kicks off in Atlanta this Sunday. This time, fellow musicians, Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Tom Morello, Arcade Fire, Jimmy Cliff and even Eric Burdon dropped by for the party. Head over to Backstreets [link] for the full review and setlist, and be sure to bookmark it if you're following the tour over the next many months. For tickets, visit the official website [link].

UPDATE: Official GA Lottery Procedures [link]

CLICK HERE for more SXSW pro-shot videos...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Boss on the cover

[link] Rolling Stone Magazine: kissing Bruce Springsteen's ass since 1973. And why shouldn't they? After all, Bruce's albums, almost all of them anyway, deserve high praise; not to mention his legendary live shows. It's been more than a week since the release of Wrecking Ball, and it has debuted at the No.1 spot on the album charts in Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, United Kingdom, and finally the United States, narrowly beating Adele (thereby preventing her 21 album from tying the record with Prince's Purple Rain for 24 consecutive weeks spent on the Billboard charts at number 1). This is Bruce's tenth album to top the Billboard.

The tour starts in Atlanta this Sunday, and even though I gotta wait till June to see 'em, I'm already extremely excited to view the setlists and reviews and pictures. Tentatively it is slated to finish in Europe in end July, but expect a second leg of U.S. summer shows to be announced in the coming months, and also possible shows in Australia and elsewhere next year. Finally, a reminder to fellow fans to tune in to NPR Music [link] for the live broadcast of Bruce's SXSW Keynote Speech from Austin this Thursday at 12pm CT. Head over to the newly-revamped official website [link] for more information.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live at the Apollo

1. We Take Care of Our Own
2. Wrecking Ball
3. Badlands
4. Death To My Hometown
5. My City Of Ruins
6. The E Street Shuffle
7. Jack Of All Trades
8. Shackled And Drawn
9. Waitin' On A Sunny Day
10. The Promised Land
11. Mansion On The Hill
12. The Way You Do The Thing You Do
13. 634-5789
14. The Rising
15. We Are Alive
16. Thunder Road
17. Rocky Ground
18. Land Of Hope And Dreams
19. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
20. Hold On, I'm Coming

Thanks to SiriusXM for broadcasting the show live to worldwide audiences. Judging from tonight's setlist, this may not look like a proper full show (no Born To Run nor anything from The Promise), but it will become another milestone in the live history of the E Street Band, in light of Clarence's passing. Soul music has always been synonymous with the Apollo Theatre, and Bruce and the band recognized that, covering three of the genre's classics, The Way You Do The Thing You Do (The Temptations) and 634-5789 (Wilson Pickett) during the middle of the set (and had Bruce singing from the second floor balcony to the delight of the audience [link]), and ending the two-hour show with a short Hold On, I'm Coming (Sam & Dave). This may seem like a 'one-off' thing, but I hope Bruce decides to continue playing these songs -- the horns and the singers were on FIRE.

Lotta songs from the just-released Wrecking Ball, including the premieres of Shackled And Drawn, We Are Alive and Rocky Ground, another highlight which had gospel singer, Michelle Moore doing her rap. The new stuff translates well onstage. Land Of Hope And Dreams turned out magnificent as usual, and this arrangement incorporates the best of the current studio and the familiar live versions from recent years. My City Of Ruins made a surprising return, and early in the set too; this rendition being more Motown/Stax-inspired. Bruce used this opportunity to introduce the band, and each one took a short solo. Then the first of many emotional moments came, as Bruce asked "Are we missing anybody?", and then responded repeatedly "The only thing I can guarantee tonight... if you're here and we're here, they're here." What a way to honor the lives of Danny and Clarence.

The ultimate tear-jerker came during Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. On a good day like this, it's one of the best pieces of live music you'll ever hear in your life. "When the change was made uptown, and the Big Man joined the band"....and then the band completely stopped playing. The crowd cheering went on for like a minute before the entire horn section came back in with Clarence's signature sax lick. This HAS to done on every single show of the tour. The new sax players, Eddie Manion and Jake Clemons faithfully recreated, for the most part, Big Man's solos on Badlands, The Promised Land and Thunder Road. When the tour is in full swing later this month, we should be expecting longer and more varied setlists. CLICK HERE to read the concert review of Backstreets' editor, Chris Phillips, who was lucky enough to attend tonight. Sunderland and Manchester couldn't come soon enough.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Wrecking Ball is a near flawless record. For me, it ranks second behind Magic on his top post-reunion albums, The Rising being a close third. But comparing Wrecking Ball to The Rising, Magic and Working On A Dream is like apples and oranges, cause it's not an E Street album, was never marketed as one anyway. It is very much a solo effort (but with many musicians outside the E Street Band), in a way like Tunnel Of Love and Devils & Dust were. But God, what an effort it is -- Bruce Springsteen at his creative peak, at his most expansive, and at his most experimental and eclectic, still being able to surprise the most ardent of fans at the age of 62. It blows my mind just thinking how he manages to do it and stay ever-relevant.

1. We Take Care Of Our Own
Now I know why this was put out as the first single. It is the only song on the album that resembles most like a classic E Street song, even though the band didn't play on it. But it still rocks. You could say that they played it safe by putting this out. On the other hand, Wrecking Ball is an album heavily focused on a specific subject matter, an America still recovering from a severe financial depression, an America in the aftermath of the historic Occupy Movement, and this opener brings forth the important rhetorical question, 'Do we take care of our own?', and the rest of the album attempts to answer it. It's like the Born In the U.S.A. of the 21st Century. I recently noticed the little details such as the guitar-wailing at the beginning that sounds like warning sirens. Initially I thought the songs were gonna be on the same musical page as We Take Care. Boy was I wrong.

2. Easy Money
This is where the gospel elements start coming into place. Awfully similar groove to Into The Fire, especially the violins. The lyrics are very Nebraska-like, but more simplistic; regular Joe and his girl imitate the fellas on Wall Street by going on a robbing spree in town, thinking 'if those banker fat cats can steal money and get away with it, maybe so can I'. The gospel chants accompany the carefree nature of the character. It's a dark, happy song, but it lacks a solid melody. For me it's the weakest track on the album, but it starts the conversation with the listener going.

3. Shackled And Drawn
The struggle and plight of the downtrodden continues. This is a strong Seeger Sessions-type energetic country-folk stomp. Again, lovely sounding gospel vocals incorporated with accordion. Musically it's uplifting, though the words are anything but; they read out like a classic Woody Guthrie tune -- a line like "let a man work, is that so wrong" couldn't be more honest. Bruce uses the chain gang as a metaphor for citizens of today facing economic hardships, getting screwed over by the corporations and politicians. I don't dig the preaching bit at the end though.

4. Jack Of All Trades
The most simple and perhaps, cliched of slow waltz-ballad melodies you can think of, not that there's anything wrong with that. But the songwriting is downright devastating -- it reflects what many Americans, and probably more non-Americans are going through these days to make ends meet, they'll do any kind of mundane labor to put food on the table. The mournful horns in the middle play out like a funeral dirge. Everytime Bruce sings "We'll be alright", even he's unsure of himself. Also it's worth listening all the way through for the great guitar solo at the end, courtesy of Tom Morello.

5. Death To My Hometown
'Fucking killer' was what came to my mind when I first heard this. Celtic-flavored mid-tempo rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on a Dropkick Murphys record. Potent and galvanizing. I'm intrigued by the samples used at the start -- it's called The Last Word Of Copernicus, sung by the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, dug from the Alan Lomax Archives. Bruce adopts an Irish accent and sings like he's slightly drunk and bloody pissed off, about his hometown in ruins, not from war or physical atrocity, but from the greedy thieves of Corporate America. That very last verse works just like one of those early Dylan folk songs, you know where he just keeps repeating the two chords -- I absolutely love it. And then when that gun cocks and fires, the hair on your skin immediately stands up. It's a call to arms; 'let us go fuck the pigs who fucked us and our homes'. This'll be great live, and I reckon it'll have more emotional resonance for the Detroit audience.

6. This Depression
A rather unusual song for Bruce. Unexpected sonic textures. I've never heard drums so upfront before in any Springsteen song (think of John Bonham on When The Levee Breaks). And Tom Morello contributes some of the most unique and outstanding guitar work on any Springsteen tune. The character, after going through what he has gone through during the past four songs, is at his lowest point, and yearns for a human touch. And then we move on to the second half of the album, where the tone changes.

7. Wrecking Ball
Not so much a fan of the live version, but this one seems to take on a new life. Surprisingly Bruce didn't rework the lyrics. But given the context of today's world, this is no longer a song about an old defunct stadium. It's about facing hardships and obstacles that come our way and taking none of that shit. These could include death and aging, something which the E Street Band has been very accustomed to the last several years-- two pillars of the band are gone, but the rest are still standing, picking up the flag and carrying on the good work. The build-up refrain of "hard times come and hard times go" is done in classic Springsteen fashion and never fails to move me. Here marks the turning point of the whole record. You can break us, but you can't break our spirit.

8. You've Got It
The supposed 'love' song of the album, close in spirit to The Fuse. It may seem like filler in terms of fitting in with the theme and though it lacks a certain lyrical depth compared to the rest of the tracks, it acts as a breather after the intensity of the title song. The words are ambiguous enough for that "it" to represent anything in our personal lives; be it love, sex, keeping faith, the best human qualities we find in our friends and family, things that money can't buy. Mainly driven by the acoustic guitar, there's a rather sexy-sounding bluesy slide that comes in during the second verse, which makes it even better...and then the looped handclaps coming in; Bruce still has a knack for creating great, catchy pop ditties.

9. Rocky Ground
This song is the most interesting of the bunch, because it has Bruce stepping into hip-hop territory, which is more gospel-based than modern. Same chord progression as One Step Up, and drum loops aplenty here. There's even an old sample, I'm A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord, put to good use. I think the female rap actually enhances the song; it fits in nicely without being too jarring. On a whole, it's spiritually rousing, complete with soulful horns, the kind you're likely to hear on Van Morrison's repertoire. My favorite Bruce vocals on this record, and he manages to connect the temple's moneychangers of Jesus's time to the corrupt businessmen of today. He reassures us 'there's a new day coming', and that everything is gonna be alright in the end. It's perhaps the most important song in the anchoring of the album narrative.

10. Land Of Hope And Dreams
The definite highlight of the album. I knew it was gonna be different from the live version we all love, but never thought it'd be THIS different. For one thing, I wouldn't have expected any electronic drums here, but it seems to work wonders. The song begins with some gospel singing (inspired by The Impressions' People Get Ready), which is the perfect transition from the ending of Rocky Ground, and then all of a sudden, a huge wall of sound hits you, as the drums (not Max Weinberg) come in with the familiar guitar riff -- it's goosebumps-inducing. I admit when I first heard this, I was in tears when Clarence's sax solo came up, his final one on any record. What a beautiful tribute to Big Man. And I like that it's not the closer. This modern, souped-up version is really beyond my wildest dreams. But both this and the original live versions are equally great, it's like comparing between the studio and live Rock Of Ages version of The Band's The Night They Drove All Old Dixie Down -- again, equally great. If there's one song that sums up his work as an artist in the past forty years, it's Land Of Hope And Dreams; the train as a symbol for America, and the E Street Band.

11. We Are Alive
In terms of songwriting, I think it's the most moving on this album, and no doubt one of Bruce's best efforts in recent years. This could very well be a tribute to Clarence, and Danny for that matter -- "Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend, it's only our bodies that betray us in the end", simply outstanding lyrics. Bruce's singing style reminds me of that of The Ghost Of Tom Joad and Devils & Dust. The Spaghetti Western & mariachi style of music gives a vivid Southwestern feel. Love the homage to Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire. Singing from the perspective of the post-Civil War railroad workers, civil rights protestors and immigrants, Bruce attests that their distant past struggles are not much different from ours today. We as the new generation, anywhere in the world, have to remember our ancestors that have gone before us, remember the sacrifices they've made to build our nations, keep them in our hearts and continue fighting for what's right.

This is an album that speaks to our times. Thematically, Wrecking Ball isn't that far off from The Rising, in terms of dealing with loss, hope, faith, love, and most importantly the reliance of others around us to give us strength to move forward. It's an all-encompassing human experience; incredibly spiritual. Bruce weaves a modern story while digging deep into the traditional American songbook, taking out folk, country, gospel, soul, R&B, and a little bit of rock & roll. He has also worked with producer Ron Aniello, who has created the best-sounding Springsteen album yet. No brick-walling, everything can be heard clearly, most importantly Bruce's vocals. This needs to blasted on a good system to be fully appreciated.

Sure it's an angry record, though not as angry as the media makes it out to be. Like Bruce mentioned many times, it's an anger deeply stemmed in national pride. And it's in no way a political record, rather a macro social commentary on today's America, but again it could be applied to all over the developed world. It's a record that flows perfectly from one song to another, one emotion into another. Bruce is one of the all-time great album artists, if not the greatest. Just a tremendous effort. People need to hear this.

Bonus Tracks: Swallowed Up takes some getting used to. It's very haunting, very powerful, but if it were one of the eleven main tracks, it would drag the album down. Meanwhile, the studio version of American Land is a monster of a song, a more rocking version of the Seeger Sessions, similar to what the E Street Band did on the previous tour. I do hope Bruce retires this for the upcoming tour.


Here are some of the more well-written reviews of Wrecking Ball:

P.S. Remember to tune in to E Street Radio (Ch. 20) on SiriusXM on March 9, 8pm Est for a live stream of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's performance at the historic Apollo Theater. CLICK HERE to sign up for a free online trial.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on Late Night #2

'70s Neil and '80s Bruce turn a godawful Top 40 hit into a new level of awesome hilarity.

The debut of the E Street horns, and they fucking rock!

This could be the new show closer every night. Bring on the tour!

CLICK HERE to pre-order Wrecking Ball.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pink Floyd's The Wall Immersion Box Set

Right now it costs around the same price as the immersion editions of Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here when they were first released last year. But unlike those two sets, it's hard to justify the price of this when it doesn't include a 5.1 mix and blu-ray audio of the album. If there's one album that'll sound GREAT in high-def surround sound, it's The Wall (rumor has it that it'll be released in the future). Still, this immersion treatment is a good buy for me, because I don't own a good sounding copy of the original album, nor have I heard the previously released double live album, Is There Anybody Out There?.

I've been listening non-stop to the '80/'81 live show, which everytime brings me back to the two unforgettable nights in January, being able to see Roger Waters and his band performing The Wall in Australia. The sound is outstanding for the most part, though sometimes the mix is a bit inconsistent. The inclusion of What Shall We Do Now? and The Last Few Bricks definitely made the thing more complete.

The fifth and sixth discs are chalked full of demos, original and band. They're divided into different programs, and sequenced in a way similar to The Wall, so there's no gap between the songs, and meant to be listened to from start to finish. The first is a compilation of excerpts of the original Roger Waters demos. These (and another set) were the demos Waters presented to the band, asking them to choose the next Pink Floyd album (the rejected demos would shape into Waters' mid-'80s solo effort, The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking). Clocking in just under 14mins; they are excerpts in every sense of the word, as some of them are extremely short, too short that it's frustrating we don't get to hear the whole thing. We would've loved to hear this particular Run Like Hell in its entirety, which is starkly different from David Gilmour's.

The rest of the demos by the band are interesting to listen to, though not really big revelations, maybe save for the ones that were excluded from the finished product, the bluesy Sexual Revolution and Teacher, Teacher. Comfortably Numb was known as The Doctor early on, which had Gilmour taking on the verses with the same chord progression -- he could sing well, but he didn't possess the creepiness and paranoia like Waters' voice could. The one thing about these demos which surprised me is the top-notch sound quality, almost on par with the remastered album, which I appreciate much more after listening through all of them.

The DVD includes a 50min documentary about the brief making of the album, the live show and the film. But the most intriguing item is a restored live clip of The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, taken from a show at London's Earls Court. It's only a minute and a half long, but it may be a good indication that a long-awaited concert film of the original Wall performances may finally see the light of day, most certainly on blu-ray format. For a very detailed excellent review of this box set, visit the fansite, Brain Damage [link].