My good friend, John Ogren, introduced me–really introduced me–to Springsteen. Sure, I’d heard of him and heard him, but John helped me really hear this master who we call the Boss. I love his rating system, which he applies to the new CD, “Devils and Dust,” an album done without the E Street Band. Here is a portion of John’s email that he sent as he listened to the new CD. It’s a joy just reading him experiencing the CD for the first time.
My on the spot rankings are retrospective in terms of the rest of the Springsteen canon.
A guide to my ranking system:
1 – Worst of the Worst: Zero and Blind Terry, Thundercrack
2 – Rather listen to the Commodores: Seaside Bar Song, Part Man Part Monkey,Two Faces
3 – Could have lived without: When You’re Alone, The Angel, Night, Streets
of Fire, Cover Me
4 – Better than Anything Phil Collins ever wrote in his whole life: Blinded by the Light, Candy’s Room, Crush on You
5 – standard Springsteen fare: I’m a Rocker, All or Nothin’ at All, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
6 – sub-classic Springsteen song: Jungleland, Mary’s Place, Ramrod
7 – Springsteen classic: Born to Run, Badlands, The Rising
8 – A Cut above a Springsteen classic: Thunder Road, Prove It All Night(Live), Independence Day
9 – Only Springsteen and Dylan write this good: Highway Patrolman, Living Proof, You’re Missing
10 – What makes Springsteen Springsteen (though not his three best songs): The River, Atlantic City, American Skin (41 Shots)
Of course I could have listed a lot more songs at each level, these selections are merely representative.
The title track is great. Set in Iraq, the refrain gives you a feel:
I got God on my side
I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing–
Turn your heart black, you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust.
Wailing harmonica solos. Really good.(8)
‘All the Way Home’ – a rocker. Electric guitar and heavy beat. Old relationships have failed. Bar is closing and Bruce is offering to walk her all the way home. (4)
Haven’t listened to ‘Reno.’ The warning label on the packaging advised of it’s ‘adult imagery’. I understand the ‘point,’ but I felt defiled just reading the lyrics. Think I’ll burn a disc without this one on it. Unrated.
‘Long Time Comin’ — Basic Springsteen anthem. But now he’s a dad, camping with the kids. A feel-good melody, great O’Brien production and some great lines:
Now down below and pullin’ on my shirt
I got some kids of my own
Well if I had one wish in this godforsaken world, kids
It’d be that your mistakes would be your own
Yeah, your sins would be your own.
‘Black Cowboys’ – sounds like something off Ghost of Tom Joad. Too many words to process meaningfully on one listen. Rainey Williams kisses his sleeping mother goodbye and leaves home. (at least a 4)
‘Maria’s Bed’ – sounds really good. nice mandolin, steel guitar, organ. (5)
‘Silver Palamino’ – This is a beauty. Nobody writes about death as skillfully as Bruce. And who else can work ‘prickly pear’ into a song? Texans will love it. (9)
‘Jesus Was an Only Son’ – I think there is hope buried in this song. (6)
Jesus was an only son
As he walked up Calvary Hill
His mother Mary walking beside him
In the path where his blood spilled
Jesus was an only son
In the hills of Nazareth
As he lay reading the Psalms of David
At his mother’s feet
A mother prays, “Sleep tight, my child, sleep well
For I’ll be at your side
That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,
Shall pierce your dreams this night.”
In the garden at Gethsemane
He prayed for the life he’d never live,
He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove
The cup of death from his lips
Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached
Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands
Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.”
‘Leah’ – a nothin’ of a love song. Should have put this on ‘Tunnel of Love.’ What a waste. (3)
‘The Hitter’ – a novel about a boxer. Can’t process yet. unrated.
‘All I’m Thinkin’ About’ – Done in the falsetto he uses on a song on disc 3 of ‘Essential’ (can’t remember the title). I like it. It’s a feel good blues number.
‘Matamoros Banks’ – haunting, beautiful love song about the death of an illegal immigrant along the border. This is what makes Springsteen Springsteen. (10)
All in all, enough to sustain for a good while. The real pay-off will be hearing this new stuff with the band, whenever that might be. Still, I will be on the sixth row, center section at Nokia Live when he comes through solo this Thursday. Apologies to those for whom that was rubbing it in. Maybe I’ll file a separate report on the dvd side of the disc.