Somewhere along the way, Bruce Springsteen realized that it was time to get back to his pop sensibilities. Those same feelings that allowed him to write many of the greatest songs of our time and frankly, of all time. And after his strong resurgence with 2002’s The Rising, the immense legend has since turned in gem after gem. He’s turning 60 years young this coming September and with fifteen studio albums under his belt, we are greeted with sweet sixteen, Working on a Dream.
His voice is something to marvel at as he sounds strong, resourceful and downright perfect. The gorgeous, “Kingdom of Days” is a genuine manifestation of what Springsteen has to offer. Here lies what a love song should be as he tells a story of lost lovers that share every waking moment together. Intertwined with strings, dramatic percussion and completed with a soaring guitar bridge, Springsteen sings, “I love you, I love you…Sing away, sing away, my darling, we’ll sing away” with a fervent gusto that is unmatched.
Following in the shimmering gleam that was Magic, Springsteen waited little time to write these songs. It’s his quickest turnaround in over twenty years between albums but what he has crafted certainly feels like a dream. Whereas The Rising was his hope for a prosperous America, after six more terrible years of politics, Working on a Dream is the jubilant fruition of hopes and well, dreams.
One of the main keys to this album’s luster are all of the smart song styles that are chosen. There are moving and lavishly orchestrated beauties like the proper closer, “The Last Carnival,” there is a straight-up blues stomp with “Good Eye,” and that’s followed by a sweet country shuffle in “Tomorrow Never Knows.” And everything starts off with the epic, opera-like, “Outlaw Pete.” In an entirely dramatic role, Springsteen sings about a jaded and misunderstood criminal searching for help. There’s striking instrumentation, vivid vocal tricks and even gongs as he sings, “Can you hear me?” Honestly, it’s sheer genius.
My dad was always a Springsteen die-hard. Although he was a bit too young to hear The Beatles or any of their contemporaries during their prime, he was fifteen years old when the masterpiece, Born to Run, came out. And what always consumed him and drew him close to Springsteen’s music was his ability to tell stories of sincere Americana with remarkable skill. The pleasant candor of “Queen of the Supermarket” is something very few can achieve. At the heart of what makes the United States the best country in the world are stories like this, of true and tried, real, Americans who shape our image and soul. And nobody does it better than The Boss.
But I’m not sure many will truly understand how lucky we are to have this musician still making music for us. “Surprise, Surprise” is nothing more than a birthday greeting but with Springsteen’s magic, it quickly turns into a classic. In former albums, his songs were cluttered with clunky words and the melodies took a backseat to some forced ideas. However, on Working on a Dream, the two are married in a brilliant manner; it doesn’t matter what the topic is because it will be terrifically evoked. This isn’t just one of the best songwriters still making music; this is one of the best songwriters of all time.
The fantastic song he wrote for The Wrestler is included on here and it makes for a caring gift to an album that is truly special. This isn’t a tired old pro knocking one more out but rather, a superb song-craftsmen and musician in control; Working on a Dream is one of Bruce Springsteen’s best albums, period. And whether he is channeling the Holy Spirit through his reckonings, re-telling fables and tales about everything under the shining sun, or just writing honest poetry from the heart, he is at the top of his game. It’s well deserved too, because in this day and age, we still desperately need him.