I had been looking forward to the new Bruce Springsteen album for quite awhile and so when the day finally arrived I trekked down to my local Best Buy Store to purchase a copy. Not finding the album in the usual section a kindly salesperson directed me to a special display area that housed the newest releases. A banner announced Working On A Dream both in the regular edition for $9.99 and a deluxe edition for $14.99. What to do? But wait; at the end of the display was one vinyl copy in all its sealed, pristine glory for $19.99. Better yet it contained 180 gram vinyl plus the cover announced that with the purchase you would be able to download the album. I left the store twenty dollars plus tax poorer but the proud possessor of Bruce Springsteen’s newest music as it was meant to be heard.
Columbia has done an excellent job with this vinyl release. They did not crowd the songs but wisely went with a two record set. The tracks are the same as the CD release except for the inclusion of “A Night With The Jersey Devil” as a second bonus track which had been previously available as a free download from Springsteen’s web site. The sound is pristine and clear and shows just how effective a record can be with the proper vinyl and sound system. I find that the sound of these heavy vinyl releases are at least equal to their CD counterparts.
As I have watched my investments and pension plan go down, down, down, I needed some positive Bruce and in general that is what I received with this release. It may not be as cohesive as some of his past efforts but it is a lot more fun than many of them.
From the opening notes and words of his eight-minute western opus, “Outlaw Pete,” you know that The Boss is back. The story is novel like complete with tempo changes and an almost sonic quality in places. “My Lucky Day” rocks and is an upbeat anthem type track that he is so good at producing. “Working On A Dream” continues the run of superior songs and finds Springsteen in a hopeful mood. Three very good songs and I was only three tracks into the listening experience.
My favorite song, at least lyrically, may be “Kingdom Of Days.” Very few artists have the ability to put feeling and thoughts into words as does Springsteen. This reflective ballad of time and love continues the good feel of many of the tracks. “I watch the sun as it rises and sets/ I watch the moon trace its arc with no regrets,” is a calm acceptance of the passing of time as Bruce Springsteen nears sixty.
The only lyrics that come close are from the bonus track, “The Wrestler” which was written for the movie of the same name. It recently won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. That it was not nominated for an Academy Award is astounding. This gentle presentation belies the lyrics that were written for a broken-down professional wrestler. “Have you ever seen a scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and wheat/ If you’ve ever seen that scarecrow, you’ve seen me.”
Other delights awaited as I listened to the album for the first time. The blues leaning of “Good Eye,” the smooth “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and the poignant farewell to long-time bandmate Danny Federici on “The Last Carnival” are all worthy additions to the Springsteen catalogue.
Working On A Dream certainly lived up to my expectations and finding it on vinyl was a bonus. Records do provide a different type of listening experience. Not only do you have to turn the discs over which highlights the songs in a way that are not found in the CD format but records do not travel. A record player is stationary and so is the listening experience. Having made my latest pitch for vinyl, it is the music of Working On A Dream that is important and ultimately will sell this album. In that regard it is a definite buy and I have to believe that despite it being only January, it will remain one of the better releases of 2009.