Friday, 1 June 2018

Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream (2009)

 

Released January 2009

Recorded in New York City

Pretty much the outstanding candidate for the dubious title of Bruce Springsteen’s worst album, this is an apparently hurried recording cobbled together during the 2008-2009 “Magic” tour. It would seem the tracks on here were rejects from the previous year’s far superior “Magic” album. It was seemingly intended to showcase Springsteen’s lighter, poppier side with a collection of Byrds/Searchers/60s pop influenced material. Over-produced, with a grating “modern” sound, it is all a bit of a stylistic mish-mash. Even the cover is positively dreadful. I hardly ever play this album, to be honest. Indeed, 2002’s “The Rising”, 2008’s “Magic” and this album all suffer from pretty poor sound, although this one is by far the better of the three in that regard.

TRACK LISTING

1. Outlaw Pete
2. My Lucky Day
3. Working On A Dream
4. The Queen Of The Supermarket
5. What Love Can Do
6. This Life
7. Good Eye
8. Tomorrow Never Knows
9. Life itself
10. Kingdom Of Days
11. Surprise Surprise
12. The Last Carnival
13. The Wrestler

Beginning unpromisingly with the almost unlistenable Western narrative “Outlaw Pete”, which is possibly up there with “Bishop Danced” from the early days of 1973 as Springsteen’s worst ever composition. The backing is admittedly quite impressive and some of the lyrics’ imagery is passable, but other parts of it are truly dreadful. A memory of this low point in Springsteen’s career is seeing middle aged men punching the air along to this at a concert, singing “I’m Outlaw Pete, - can you hear me!”. I know Springsteen inspires great loyalty from his fans, but come on guys. After eight minutes of this dross one is tempted to take the album off.

Things can only get better from here, but although they do, it is only very slightly.

The title track is incredibly lightweight, as is the pretty execrable “Queen Of The Supermarket”, which sees the sixty-year old Springsteen lusting, embarrassingly, over a young check out girl in his local convenience store. Dear me. I know many artists simply cannot regenerate the muse they employed in their twenties, artists mature, they lose that youthful fire, they try different things, but all these considerations taken into account, this is still quite unimpressive fare. It is not really a proper E St Band album either. Underpinned by drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan and bassist Garry Tallent, other members only appear as an where they are required. One good thing about the production of this album is that Tallent’s bass can actually be heard, as it struggles to do on “The River”. One of the title track’s few redeeming qualities is the bass line.

“Good Eye” is a rather unique effort to play the blues, which is ok on this album, considering what is around it, but unconvincing in the broader scheme of things, “This Life” is pleasant and melodious, with some really nice, uplifting vocal harmonies and the bleak “Life Itself” has appeal too. The upbeat, rocky “My Lucky Day” and the folky, country-ish, laid back “Tomorrow Never Knows” (with its strange dog-barking sound in the background) also have their good points. To be fair, there is a listenability to it in many places, but this is Bruce Springsteen we are talking about.

C-



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