The rising
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Date: June 2003


surefish exclusive by Ricky Ross

On a dusty railway platform station in 1980 I picked up a pink button badge which read, I Love Bruce Springsteen. Since that time I’ve guessed that is the only sensible reaction to have to the music of Bruce.

Last year the live CD of the NYC gig came through my post. I put on the album and played all of it without a pause and smiled, laughed and found myself near greetin' at the sheer audacity of the whole thing, and immediately began to regret not going to the E Street live gigs of a few summers ago. The version of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out became (and might still might be) a rather worrying mid-to-late life addiction . It reminded me of my first night in New York (when I also saw my first Bruce gig!) and made me realise what being in a band can be – knowing the audience know you’re having as much fun as is humanly possible and still creating the essence of all great pop music – transcendence.

The Rising. I liked this album before I heard a note. Two things were plus points before the tapes rolled. 1. The E Street band were back (the least he could do after their sterling efforts on the New York album). 2 He had engaged a producer. I didn’t really mind who this was but simply thought it a good idea to have someone else get the best out of him. Musically the album is a big success. It contains songs (Lonesome Day, Waiting on A Sunny Day, Mary’s Place, Let’s Be Friends and The Rising) which beg to be in the live set along side Two Hearts, Badlands or My Love Will Not Let You down. Producer Brendan O’Brien has made his mark in the best way. He’s made no attempt to stamp any character of his own, but rather found a great way of making the E Street Band seem like the only choice for the backing musicians, and he also seems to have tapped into their gift of sounding like the American bar room r’n’b band they truly are.

There’s also a nod back to the ghost who stalked the Born To Run sessions - Phil Spector. When you have four guitarists, two keyboards and a sax man, why should you avoid the wall of sound? There’s more than a hint of Crystals here and there on this album with due attention given to the directness which made their songs so perfect.

So what could be wrong?

Like all things Bruce it goes on a bit. Seventy-two minutes is pushing it a bit. Someone with his pedigree doesn’t need reminding that “What’s Goin On”, “Pet Sounds” and “Rubber Soul” were less than half that length. If there’s a flaw it’s perhaps the most publicised aspect of this album. As a ‘post September 11th’ piece it is limited by its own precepts. It’s a difficult trick to pull off an album when you’ve already narrowed the field of focus so acutely. But the cruellest truth is that there is really nothing here which will add to the our own understanding of that dark day.

Would any of this have mattered had the publicity not made such a feature of it? I think not.

A few years ago I watched in dumb disbelief an HBO type broadcast on the last Springsteen/ E St. Band studio collaboration for the extra tracks on the Greatest Hits package. It occurred to me then how badly served he was by a conspiracy of sycophancy which ran throughout the management, band and production team. Having sacked himself as producer the next task might be to hand out a P45 to the person who came up with the advance PR for this album. Bruce’s nascent career in this country suffered from the abysmal hype of the “Finally the world is ready for...” campaign. His albums and shows proved there was far more to him than that weak fluff. Don’t let a similar misjudged press blurb put you off The Rising. I got out of bed on Monday morning and bought it before I did anything else. It’s the best thing I’ve done this week.

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