I’m looking for recommendations for new music, or music related podcasts, to check out. @RadioFreeBillyD on Twitter or Billy D’Ettorre on Facebook are the best ways to tell me what you think.
Let’s start with a little behind the scenes for you about the writing of this week’s blog post…. I’ve started, stopped, deleted, changed, rewritten, and given up on it a bunch of times already. In fact there is a pretty decent chance this paragraph has been scrapped too, and you aren’t really reading it right now. Let’s see how it goes.
Part of the problem is that I know I want to write about the new Springsteen album “Letter To You”, but what do I want to say about it? Do I want to write what would essentially amount to just another rave review of a record getting universal praise on every music site populating the interwebs?
I’m sure I could slip in a couple humorous old timey pop culture references to make my review a little more entertaining than some, but is that just a crutch I lean on way too often? I wouldn’t want the jokes to feel as forced as the moral at the end of an episode of Mork and Mindy, when Mork from Ork would report back to Orson about his adventures on Earth that week.
You also don’t need me breaking down the origin stories and meanings of the songs on the latest release from The Boss. Every music journalist in print and broadcast media have discussed the themes being tackled on the record… nostalgia, aging, friendship, love, loss, regret, life, death, etc… Ya know, the stuff that has always made up the best E Street Band albums.
Bruce himself has even been on a bit of a media blitz to talk about his latest music, including appearances on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The 71 year old Springsteen is even the current cover boy for AARP Magazine.
It might just be the algorithm Facebook has figured out for me, but it seems like I can’t swing a three legged cat without hitting an interview with, or article about, my favorite classic rocker. I should know… THIS is our new three legged kitty. His name is Pi (because he has 3.14 legs), and he’s not really fond of being swung around.
I personally think the best place to learn about the creation of “Letter To You” is the companion documentary on Apple+ that follows the recording of album, while also giving us some personal thoughts via a Springsteen narration. The archival footage from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s is a special treat. With Bruce himself as your guide in this movie you certainly don’t need me and my little blog telling you about the writing of songs like “Last Man Standing”, “Ghosts”, or “Power Of Prayer”.
One little bonus tip for you… as long as you’re using your week long free trial for Apple+ you might also want to check out the show “Defending Jacob”. It’s a nifty little family drama/legal thriller starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery (the woman who played Lady Mary Crowley on Downton Abbey). How come British actors are so good with American accents, but the reverse is problematic (I’m looking at you Kevin “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves” Costner.)?
For those of you who do subscribe to Apple+ I have a question. How is the Fraggle Rock reboot? I haven’t had the chance to look at it yet, and am curious if it’s worth the time.
Okay, back to Bruce Springsteen’s new album? What can I tell you about it that you can’t get in other places? I guess the answer is “my own personal reactions, opinions, and feelings”. Here are some of those in sort of a bullet point format…
– The album is fantastic, but I still don’t like the name (as I wrote about HERE when the album was announced about a month ago). Just about every other song on the disc would’ve been a better title track.
– The album has twelve songs. I LOVE ten of them, like one of them (Rainmaker,) and don’t really care for the other one. After a few listens “House Of A Thousand Guitars” has now become the track I skip (although it would’ve made a great album title).
ENOUGH ABOUT THE DAMN ALBUM TITLE!!!!
The vocals on this mid tempo ballad are just too sing-songy, almost like Bruce is reciting a poem in a Greenwich Village coffee shop in the mid 60’s. It’s not the worst song Bruce has ever written or recorded, just the weak link of this collection.
– “Rainmaker” is a good song that feels out of place on this E Street Band record. I wonder if it’s leftover from his 2019 solo release “Western Stars”, where it would’ve sounded perfect.
– Many people are saying this is the best Springsteen album since “The Rising” in 2002. I disagree. I’ll go even further back and say it’s his best studio album since 1984’s “Born In The U.S.A”.
At this point I’d normally tell you about the problems I have with “The Rising”. I’d also tell you why “Human Touch”, “Lucky Town” (both from 1992), and “The Seeger Sessions” (2006) are very underrated. How come I’m not? Easy… because I’m trying to keep this brief. How am I doing?
– On “Letter To You” the whole E Street Band is in top notch form, with an extra special MVP award going to drummer Max Weinberg… his playing just really stands out to me on this record. Also kudos to keyboardist Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons on sax for channeling the sounds and passion of Danny Federici and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons (Jake’s uncle).
– There is just something about this album that feels like “old school ESB”. It’s hard to explain, but I honestly never thought I’d hear a Bruce Springsteen CD that sounds like this ever again. I couldn’t be happier about this, and with the way things are going in the world today you have to find happiness wherever you can.
– My copy of the disc is out in Susan’s car, it’s raining out, and I’m too lazy to go get it, but next time I can look at the enclosed booklet I want to see who is playing tambourine on “Burnin’ Train”. Great job!!! The song wouldn’t sound nearly as good without it, sort of like the tambourine in Rare Earth’s cover version of The Temptations “Get Ready”. I’m going to guess it was Jake playing tambourine for the E Street Band since in the past it was Clarence who handled percussion duties when the saxophone wasn’t needed. I bet none of the other reviews on the web have mentioned that.
– My favorite song on the disc by a long margin is “If I Was A Priest”. Maybe it’s because I have (and love) the original version from the 1972 Hammond Demos (recorded when Bruce auditioned for legendary A&R man John Hammond at CBS Records).
The Boss held this song in his back pocket for almost five decades before pulling it out and transforming it from a solo piano ballad to the full band epic that I heard for the first time last Friday.
It starts off with just vocals and acoustic guitar, and then a little piano joins, before the whole group comes charging in. From there it’s off to the races with Bruce at his “new Dylan” wordiest. I know, it’s hard to believe I like a writer who uses way too many words.
By the time “If I Was The Priest” culminates to it’s final verse and chorus I was feeling a surge of electricity through my whole body, and had a single tear in the corner of my eye. This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s the absolute truth. When Bruce’s voice was joined by a chorus of background singers (including his wife Patti Scialfa) it sounded like a heavenly choir, and I wound up looking like a Native American who had just seen someone litter. I hope you like the song even half as much as I do.
Aren’t you glad I kept my thoughts brief? I promise this is the last time I’ll write about Bruce Springsteen for a while.
Stay safe, stay healthy, have a fun Halloween, don’t forget to turn your clocks back this Saturday/Sunday, and please vote.
No three legged cats were swung during the writing of this blog.