Boss and band make ‘Magic’
Tim Gallo | Thursday, October 4, 2007
Bruce Springsteen has been a very busy man. Two years ago, he released “Devils and Dust,” a solo acoustic album. He then came back last year to release a folk record, “We Shall Overcome,” which covered the songs of Pete Seeger. Both compilations were great, but the Boss did not seem at home. Luckily, Springsteen has come back again this year for “Magic.” Surrounding himself with the E Street Band, the Boss finally sounds like he is back.
“Magic” kicks off with “Radio Nowhere.” The opening guitar riff is hard and distorted – and it sounds eerily like the opening of Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny.” Soon after the whole band kicks in and the song lifts off. The song symbolizes the new direction Springsteen takes with “Magic.” It is a heavier, straightforward, rock ‘n’ roll record.
Yet, despite this new edge, the album still has the distinct Bruce Springsteen sound. The E Street Band creates a “Wall of Sound” behind the Boss to give the songs a forceful feel. On “Radio Nowhere,” the band builds up to a crescendo when Clarence Clemmons comes in on the Saxophone and takes over.
These sax solos are some of the highlights of the album, as Clemmons is able to fill the room with his instrument and bring the E Street Band’s music to a dramatic conclusion.
Clemmons is not the only member of the E Street Band to stand out on “Magic.” Roy Bitan plays a glowing, elegant piano on “I’ll Work for Your Love.” Max Weinberg (of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” fame) pounds on his drum set, giving the music a strong, steady beat. And newcomer Soozie Tyrell sounds as if she has found a niche in the E Street Band, gracefully playing her violin to give the album a more dramatic feel.
Springsteen turns out another strong effort on this record. He will never impress anyone with his voice, which may be one of the worst in the history of rock music. It does, however, work with his lyrics and the E Street Band’s music. He growls and screams with the same exuberance and anxiety he displayed on earlier classics “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle” and “Born to Run.” Lyrically, Bruce is less accessible to new listeners; his words are more like stories and less like songs. But while they sound awkward at first, they reach greater depth as the songs are heard more and more. Springsteen stands out on “Livin’ in the Future,” where his excitement makes the listener feel the same young love Bruce sings about.
It is not surprising that Springsteen gets political at times in this record, and it is in these attempts where “Magic” loses its momentum. Bruce removes the E Street Band from the exuberance it displayed in the album’s first eight songs, choosing instead to slow the band down. The political slow jams, like “Last to Die” and “Devil’s Arcade” are fine on their own, beautifully written by Springsteen with wonderful violin backing from Tyrell. However, they feel out of place on this otherwise jovial record.
“Magic” is another strong effort from a man who is approaching his sixties. Springsteen’s lyrics show that he still has a lot more to say, and the E Street Band has taken the vibrant, uplifting sound it created on “The Rising” and has molded it to perfection. It makes one wonder why Springsteen does not collaborate with the E Street Band on all of his records, for it is clear that magic occurs when the two join forces.