The big news this week is of course the new Bruce Springsteen album.
Working On A Dream arrives in stores today backed by the sort of marketing and publicity campaign worthy of Obama's inauguration or the Super Bowl (not coincidentally, Bruce was or will be highly visible at both events), and the sort of high expectations you'd expect to match. If this one turns out to be anything less than the first blockbuster of the new year, I'd expect some heads to be rolling.
The album itself is a mixed bag, and the reviews coming in reflect a variety of opinions that are every bit as mixed.
But you certainly can't fault Springsteen's ambition here. Working On A Dream could just be the most stylistically varied collection of new songs of Springsteen's entire career. There's everything here from the epic tale of "Outlaw Pete," to the jangly sounding sixties pop of "Surprise, Surprise," to the Beach Boys styled sweep of "This Life." With reports of E Street Band tour dates already showing up all over the internet, expect most if not all of those shows to go on sale right after the SuperBowl on Monday, February 2.
Franz Ferdinand's third album Tonight moves the band further away from poppy-punk sounds, and towards more of a dance flavor. Here the Glasgow-based rockers branch out to include elements of everything from electronica to reggae, while maintaining their unique pop sensibilities.
This week we welcome three of our regular NAR contributors, all checking in with their picks. El Bicho will be talking about the new bluegrass album from Steve Martin, and Pico will likewise run down the jazz sounds of the new Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette collaboration. But first, here is Donald Gibson to tell us all about a cool new live E.P. from Paul McCartney. Mark Saleski continues his hiatus this week.
The first time I saw Paul McCartney in concert was in 1993 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. I was 16 and, despite my youth, I considered myself as much of a Beatles fan as anyone else in that packed, cavernous stadium. Seldom am I starstruck, but when McCartney took the stage, Hofner in hand, a flood of iconography and lore – British Invasion… Abbey Road… Ed Sullivan… Shea Stadium… Sgt. Pepper… Lennon… Liverpool… A Hard Day’s Night – crystallized in my mind in that one moment, represented by that one man. “There he is!” I yelled to no one in particular, utterly gobsmacked.
I can only imagine the euphoria felt by those crammed inside Amoeba Records in L.A. on June 27, 2007, rocking out as McCartney played within spitting distance of his own back catalog. Issued on CD and limited edition 12” vinyl, Amoeba’s Secret is this gig’s only officially available document. Sure, only four tracks appear on it – the set comprised 21 songs overall – but for fans who didn’t witness the performance firsthand (or snag a bootleg thereafter), this recording makes for a modest keepsake of rock ‘n’ roll’s ultimate in-store appearance. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Back when Steve Martin was the King of Comedy, his use of the banjo in his act seemed little more than a prop like the bunny ears and the arrow through the head, but it actually foreshadowed a lifelong passion.
The Crow is Martin's first full-length bluegrass album of 15 original tracks. Longtime fans of Martin will recognize some of the songs from his album The Steve Martin Brothers and Tony Trischka's Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular. The album has an impressive pedigree as it is produced by John McEuen, of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Martin is joined by top-notch musicians like Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Mary Black, Tim O'Brien, Earl Scruggs, Pete Wernick and Trischka. The Crow reveals the breadth of Martin's talents much more than the upcoming The Pink Panther 2. A free MP3 of "Daddy Played the Banjo" is available at Amazon. If you don't care for bluegrass, "well, excuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeee!"