The Rising Album reviews.
Release Date: 07.30.02
Record label: Sony
He's The Boss for a Reason
by: steven jacobetz
Very rarely, an album is released which seems to capture perfectly the spirit of its time. Bruce Springsteen's new disc, The Rising, is one such album. It is the best attempt by any musician to date at capturing the emotions of post-9/11/01 America.
The Rising may not be Bruce's all-time best work. It lacks the timeless quality of Born To Run, or the instant mass appeal of Born in the USA, but it's certainly one of his most immediately poignant and affecting. The album cries out to be viewed in the context of 9/11, but with few exceptions, each song is open to interpretation by the listener, which gives the album the universal quality needed for all great art. This universality is what separates a Hall of Famer like Springsteen from lesser songwriters.
Over the course of 15 songs, Bruce covers many styles and emotions. There are ballads about trauma and loss, such as "Nothing Man," "Empty Sky," and "You're Missing," but there are also up tempo songs about hope and renewal, like, "Countin' On a Miracle," "Lonesome Day," "The Rising," and "Waitin' On a Sunny Day."
"Into the Fire" is the one song Springsteen has said he wrote specifically about 9/11 rescue workers. "May your strength give us strength/May your faith give us faith/ May your hope give us hope/May your love bring us love," he sings with gospel choir backing in the song's simple but effective chorus. "My City of Ruins", a song written about the economic decay of Bruce's adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, has similar power with its chorus commanding, "Come on, rise up!" A Christian rock band like Third Day would be hard-pressed to write songs which are more spiritually powerful than these two.
There are songs about cross-cultural understanding, like "Worlds Apart," which features the vocal group of Pakistani singer Asif Ali Khan, and the Motown and gospel inspired, "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)." The first verse of "Paradise" takes the viewpoint of a suicide bomber. Only an experienced observer of the human condition such as Springsteen could pull off such a wide range of material so well.
Remarkably, there's still room left on the album for some sexuality ("The Fuse") and good times with old friends ("Mary's Place"). This album truly covers all the bases.
Now we know why the rocker "Further On (Up the Road)" which Bruce played often during his 10-night stand at Madison Square Garden in 2000, wasn't included on last year's 2-CD live set. It is given a proper studio rendition here.
Springsteen, together with producer Brendan O'Brien, who has worked with artists such as Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine, went for a more ensemble-oriented approach on this album. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish Bruce's voice over the instrumentation and choirs, but it feels right. This is a communal effort, and each player is given plenty of space to do what he or she does best-from Clarence Clemons' sax, which is featured often (always a good thing); to the always reliably solid drumming of Max Weinberg; to guest violinist Soozie Tyrell, who has become a member of the touring band this year.
Springsteen has in the E. Street Band what all musicians desire-- a dedicated, talented and bonded backing band which has stayed in tact for nearly 30 years. This is the first album every member has contributed to since Born in the USA in 1984, and it's great to have them collaborating together again. With the world as it is now, with the threat of terrorism hanging over the free world and the economy in such bad shape, we desperately needed Springsteen and his band to show us the way through with rock 'n roll. With this album and tour to follow, they have, and we can all be thankful. This isn't just your parents' music. It's for everybody. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best rock albums of the year.
05-Aug-2002 7:28 PM