Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Album Review - The Rising

On this day in 2002, Springsteen released The Rising, reuniting him with the E Street Band and rejuvenating his career.  It's not just an album I love, but an album that is absolutely ingrained in me.  When I've reviewed past albums, I usually need to listen to the songs a few times to try to form a strong opinion or find new aspects of the song I may have missed before.  However, I did not need to do that with this review, as each song had already carved out a distinctive feeling in me over the last 12 years.  It makes this review both easy and difficult, as I could have written it without even listening to it, but I worry my nostalgia will overwhelm me.  I will do the best I can, and if you end up hating my review, I encourage you to read the much better article written by Steve earlier this year.

Well, let's start with the nuts and bolts.  This album is 72 minutes long, second only the The River in length.  The length, while daunting, is oddly appropriate, as it shows that, after an 18-year hiatus, Bruce and the E Street Band had a lot to get off their chest.  And boy, does this album fly everywhere.

The album starts with a quartet of "welcoming" songs, easing you back into the band's sound.  "Lonesome Day" is a solid rocker that lays out the underlying themes of the album: this is a time of sadness, but also a time of gentle comfort.  "Into the Fire" introduces the more international aspects of the music that infuse many tracks of the album.  "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" lightens the mood a bit, with funny lyrics a simple chord structure.  "Nothing Man" is another slow and humble song, such as "Into the Fire".  The songs are emotionally, catchy, and easy to listen to.

The E Street Band truly returns, however, on "Countin' On A Miracle", blowing the doors off musically.  The tone shifts continue on "Empty Sky", as a kiss is followed by "an eye for an eye", allowing some of the anger bubbling beneath the surface of the record to leak out.  This is then followed by one of Bruce's most experimental song, "World's Apart", which seems to be heavily influenced by the styles in popular music at the time (think of Sting's "Desert Rose").  It would be a signal of the experimenting Bruce would continue to do throughout the next 12 years, notably on Wrecking Ball.

The album dips around this point.  "Let's Be Friends (Skin To Skin)" is another song influenced by current pop culture (Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up The Sun"), and is a fairly weak track.  "Further On (Up The Road)" is a solid rocker, but Bruce ends up capturing this sound and feeling better on the future Magic track "Gypsy Biker".  "The Fuse" is another more "experimental" track like "Into the Fire" and "World's Apart", and doesn't quite stand out.

However, the album goes out with a big bang.  "Mary's Place" is a strong rock song, and it is no surprise that this has become a concert staple.  "Your Missing" is a song I want played at my funeral (and sung by fellow blog contributor OB).  "The Rising", as cliche as it might be say, is the best song on the album, and is easily one of Springsteen's best songs.  Finally, the album concludes with "City of Ruins", a powerful song about overcoming hard times that is just as relevant today as it was 12 years ago.

By the end of the album, you are left bewildered, wondering what just happened.  It is truly a roller coaster ride of rock songs, pop songs, experimental Eastern sounding songs, and funeral dirges.  Emotions go from loneliness, to hope, to joy, back to fear, and then it starts all over again.  It is one of Springsteen's best albums, worth a 5 star rating.  If you haven't listened to it yet, quit wasting your time on this blog and go out and give it a listen!

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