Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Working on a Dream released

Working on a Dream

Bruce Springsteen


Released: January 27, 2009


Peak: 11 US, 11 UK, 12 CN, 3 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.12 UK, 1.67 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock veteran


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Outlaw Pete [8:00]
  2. My Lucky Day [4:01] (11/28/08, 18 AA)
  3. Working on a Dream [3:30] (11/21/08, 95 US, 2 AA, 91 CN)
  4. Queen of the Supermarket [4:40]
  5. What Love Can Do [2:57] (4/18/09, --)
  6. This Life [4:30]
  7. Good Eye [3:01]
  8. Tomorrow Never Knows [2:14]
  9. Life Itself [4:00] (11/28/08, --)
  10. Kingdom of Days [4:02]
  11. Surprise, Surprise [3:24]
  12. The Last Carnival [3:11]
  13. The Wrestler [3:50] (8/08, 93 UK, 63 CN)

All songs are written by Bruce Springsteen.


Total Running Time: 51:20


The Players:

  • Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, percussion, glockenspiel)
  • Roy Bittan (piano, Hammond organ, accordian)
  • Clarence Clemons (saxophone, backing vocals)
  • Danny Federici (Hammond organ)
  • Nils Lofgren (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Patti Scialfa (backing vocals)
  • Garry Tallent (bass)
  • Steven Van Zandt (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Max Weinberg (drums)

Rating:

3.624 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Bruce Springsteen has a dream. He has a dream that one day, this rock-and-roll nation will rise up and live like it’s 1965/1966 all over again. He has a dream that our pop stars will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the RIAA-certified colors of their gold and platinum albums, but by how well they appropriate the spectral mid-‘60s sounds of the Beach Boys, Byrds, Beatles, Roy Orbison, Phil Spector and even Ennio Morricone.” FL

“That’s the prevailing musical message of Springsteen and the E Street Band’s surprising new album, Working on a Dream.” FL “It is the fourth collaboration between Springsteen and Brendan O’Brien, who produced and mixed the album.” AZ

The result is an album “unlike any of the previous 15 studio sets in Springsteen’s remarkably rich catalogue, inasmuch as it’s the Jersey boy’s first album in which style clearly trumps substance.” FL “What’s good for our heroes isn’t always good for us. Dylan found God and lost the lyrical plot. Prince scrubbed ‘slave’ from his face and followed his purple muse down the rabbit hole. Bruce Springsteen? At 59, after 35 years of grappling with the dark side of the American Dream, Jersey’s favorite son” SP and “one of the finest American songwriters of his generation;” AZ “sounds relatively content – a far cry from his state of mind 16 months ago, when the bitter and oft-bleak E Street album Magic was released. Then, Springsteen was downright disturbed by the realities of this American life under the watch of George W. Bush.” FL Now he “has reached a promised land of sorts – he’s got his man in the White House, happiness at home, and a gig headlining the Super Bowl. Does it get any better than that? If we’re talking Working on a Dream, the answer, unfortunately, is yes.” SP

“Springsteen is forever striving to blend profound lyrics with bracing rock-and-roll or folk, depending on his musical mood. But Working on a Dream is full of lyrical missteps and half-realized ideas.” FL His “street poetry falls short of earlier majestic peaks, robbing splendor from sonic gem[s].” UT “Mostly upbeat and major key, Springsteen’s fifth studio album in six years plays like the sunlit counterpart to Magic.” SP “The album doesn’t go nearly as deep as you’d expect from one of rock’s preeminent poets; Springsteen’s lyrics tend to be overshadowed by the album’s generally bright melodies and lush textures and sounds.” FL “Bliss [just] isn’t the Boss’ bag. Without anything to push against, one of rock’s most eloquent lyricists is in the awkward position of having little of interest to say.” SP

“What Love Can Do”
Working was hatched before Magic was launched. While mixing the latter, Springsteen recorded What Love Can Do, which he deemed more appropriate for a new path than a last-minute Magic addition. It sparked an atypical songwriting frenzy that yielded five Working tracks in a week. The E Street Band did much of the recording during tour breaks. The album contains the last studio contributions by keyboardist Danny Federici, who died of melanoma last April.” UT

“Queen of the Supermarket”
Nowhere is the conflict between sound and words more obvious than on Queen of the Supermarket, “the lyrical nadir” SP of the album, but also an example of how “the sonic sum [of the album] is frequently something to behold.” FL This “marvelous, majestic song” FL kicks off as “a mid-tempo piano ballad, before adding everything from swelling strings and swirling Eastern-tinged guitar chords to stacked vocal harmonies and the rhythmic beep of an electronic cash register.” FL Lyrically, it is “a widescreen melodrama about a cashier crush that for sheer overkill rivals Adam Sandler’s Broooce parody ‘Lunchlady Land.” SP The song “finds Bruce Springsteen steering a grocery cart down aisle No. 2 as he plaintively confesses his secret crush on the checkout girl.” UT “Leave it to the Boss to try to romanticize the mega-mart shopping experience.” FL

“Surprise Surprise”
“The carefully crafted music…[is] continually undercut by clunky, banal lyrics.” SPSurprise Surprise, for instance, is a devastatingly catchy power-pop song built around chiming, Byrdsian guitar chords and punched up with the sort of swirling keyboard line that might make Ray Manzarek beam with pride. It sounds like the best Traveling Wilburys song you’ve never heard, only with strings and, unfortunately, the sort of lyrics that Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, et al., might have laughed out of the room: ‘And when the sun comes out tomorrow, it’ll be the start of a brand new day/And all that you have wished for I know will come your way.” FL

“My Lucky Day”
“On the driving rocker My Lucky Day, over ringing guitars and piano fills, Springsteen plays with the old love-is-a-gamble motif, but can only come up with this couplet: ‘Well, I lost all the other bets I made/Honey, you’re my lucky day.” FL

“The Last Carnival”
Depending on the critic, The Last Carnival is either a “hokey [song that] proves for the umpteenth time that a song built on big-top metaphors is doomed to failure” SP or “the standout that comes near album’s end.” FL “Mortality looms over…[the] gloriously bittersweet tribute to the late E Street Band organist Danny Federici, who died in April from melanoma, it’s full of striking imagery and shot through with a haunting, echoing harmony vocal that sounds as if it’s coming from the great beyond. ‘Hanging from the trapeze/My wrists waiting for your wrists,’ Springsteen sings. ‘Two daredevils high upon the wall of death.” FL

“This Life”
This Life “features some of the best vocal harmonies this side of the Beach Boys and includes one of the album's most memorable lyrics: ‘I finger the hem of your dress/My universe at rest.’” FL

“Working on a Dream”
“The whistling in the rocking title track, which could be an anthem for President Obama’s stimulus package, conveys cheery optimism at the prospect of honest hard labor, even as the lyrics recognize hardships ahead.” UT

“Life Itself”
That song and Life Itself both offer “classic pop- and folk-derived melodies [that] sound almost sacred when borne aloft by the E Street Band’s majestic thrust. Brendan O’Brien’s heavily layered yet clearly defined production further amps up the arena roar – his wall of sound is audible from outer space.” SP

“Outlaw Pete”
“The album-opening Outlaw Pete is a thrilling eight-minute epic,” SP a “seriocomic folk tale” UT with “a booming vocal, seesawing guitar line, and galloping strings. And don’t be surprised if you let out a ‘Big Man!’ when Clarence Clemons rips a sax solo on ‘My Lucky Day,’” SP a song in which Springsteen is “celebrating love’s blessing.” UT “Elsewhere, touches of backwards guitar, distorted harmonica, and subtle vocal loops show that these ol’-time rock ‘n’ rollers aren’t afraid to experiment.” SP

“Kingdom of Days”
“On Kingdom of Days, Springsteen ponders love and mortality and how romance can almost make time stand still, singing: ‘I don’t see the summer as it wanes/Just the subtle change of light upon your face.’ Lyrically, it’s one of the album’s more moving songs. But it’s also musically overwrought, with strings adding a thick coating of schmaltz and sending the whole thing smashing into the wall inside the tunnel of love.” FL

“The Wrestler”
“The Boss is at his very best on the album-closing, Golden Globe-winning The Wrestler,” FL which Springsteen wrote for Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 film of the same name. Springsteen “sings of struggle and survival over strummy acoustic guitar with some tinkling piano and buried backing vocals, but no stacked harmonies, no strings and no stabs at soaring grandeur. It’s a stark, simple character study, and the most emotionally gripping song on the album. Funny thing that: Springsteen shines when he’s trying to sound less like Brian Wilson, et al., and more like . . . Bruce Springsteen.” FL

“As anyone who’s ever seen him in concert can attest, Bruce Springsteen doesn’t shy from hard work. But people work hardest when they’re hungry; and the man’s 12 new musically sturdy, lyrically iffy love songs and tall tales suggest that America’s most beloved rock icon sags when he’s satisfied. For the majority of people, that’s to be expected. For a hero like Springsteen, it’s a disappointment.” AMG

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First posted 1/20/2009; last updated 8/22/2021.

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Grammy Nominees for Album of the Year


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Blog updated on 1/11/2012 to include images and links. Content untouched.
.


With the Grammy nominees out now, it is time to let the complaining begin...except that I don’t have much to complain about, at least not about the Album of the Year nominations. This year’s crop – Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter III, and Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman is better than most years. All were successful and critically acclaimed. There’s not a lemon in the batch and nothing is completely out of left field.

Click to read more about the album.



So this year’s winner will be...Raising Sand. It’s the safest and most middle-of-the-road. Not a bad choice, actually. It’s hard to argue with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss walking home with album of the year honors. Both are artists well deserving of any accolade thrown their way. It was also an interesting experiment in pairing two artists from seemingly opposite sides of the fence that paid off.

Click to read more about the album.



Still, it would be nice to see Radiohead or Coldplay crowned with the award, but it would be yet another case of getting an album of the year award for the wrong album. Radiohead’s unquestionable pinnacle was 1997’s OK Computer while Coldplay won much more attention and critical acclaim for 2000’s Parachutes or 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

Click to read more about the album.



Radiohead and Coldplay also fall into too similar a genre and will end up canceling each other out anyway. The same problem is true of Lil’ Wayne and Ne-Yo. The rap and R&B crowds will be split between the two choices.

Click to read more about the album.



So, not a bad crop this year and any of them could win and be less of a head scratcher than some year’s winners.




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Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


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Well, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been announced for 2009. As always, there’s a mix of unquestionable inductees (Metallica), those that are somewhat deserving, but debatable (Jeff Beck) and those that make you go “huh?” (Little Anthony? Bobby Womack? Run-D.M.C.?).

What always makes the latter category more dramatic is when you consider those acts who haven’t been inducted (Kiss, Genesis, Yes, Rush, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop & The Stooges). So, here’s a little guide on how to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

1. Don’t be prog rock. Genesis, Yes, Rush, Jethro Tull – this means you. Apparently being a hugely influential and successful rock band is insignificant if you’ve ever done a thematic album, written a song longer than 8 minutes, and dared to integrate classical music into good ol’ rock and roll.

You aren’t likely to see The Rock Hall nominating committee wearing these.



2. Being an authentic rock and roll act is not required. Now that the Hall has caught up with the rap era, they’ve seen fit to induct Grandmaster Flash & Run-D.M.C. Do they belong in a rap hall of fame? No question. But rock and roll?

However, the nominating committee might wear these.



3. In fact, you may be better off being an R&B act. Now, no one should be signing any petitions to get the likes of Ray Charles, Fats Domino, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cook booted from the Hall. They are great examples of acts that have hugely influenced both R&B and rock. However, the Rock Hall seems to have taken it upon themselves to represent whatever R&B act they see fit, regardless of whether they have much to do with rock & roll or its development. Little Anthony & The Imperials? The Flamingos? The O’Jays?

The Rock Hall nominating committee practically has this mantra tattooed on their foreheads.



4. Being a blues pioneer is a huge plus. Actually, I don’t have a quibble with this one. Rock and roll is so rooted in the blues that you’d have to question the credibility of a Hall without B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and Howlin’ Wolf.

You could definitely hear the Nom Com spout this mantra.



5. Last of all, don’t be Kiss. Look, when the weird kid in my junior high argued about how great Kiss was, it was easy to dismiss him. I’ve never been a fan of the band anyway. When you think of how huge they’ve been in rock and roll, however, it’s time to get a grip. Apparently, the Rock Hall is about politics and Kiss have rubbed them the wrong way. Perhaps the Hall could use a little reminder that the roots of rock and roll is all about rubbing people the wrong way. Get a clue and put in the act that most deserves it that isn’t in yet.

A face only a mother could love? Certainly the Rock Hall has no love for this face.




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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion released

First posted 3/30/2010; updated 9/9/2020.

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective


Released: January 20, 2009


Peak: 13 US, 26 UK, 25 CN, 63 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, 0.22 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: alternative rock


Tracks:

  1. In the Flowers
  2. My Girls (single: 3/23/09)
  3. Also Frightened
  4. Summertime Clothes (single: 6/29/09)
  5. Daily Routine
  6. Bluish
  7. Guys Eyes
  8. Taste
  9. Lion in a Coma
  10. No More Runnin
  11. Brother Sport (single: 11/9/09)

Rating:

3.985 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

“Animal Collective have brought the celestial down to earth with each record, but they’ve never sounded simultaneously otherworldly and approachable quite like they do on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their eighth studio LP, it finds them at their best – straining farther away from conventional song structure and accompaniment, even while doubling back to reach lyrical themes and modes of singing at their most basic or child-like.” JB

“Where before AC expertly inserted experimental snippets into relatively straight-ahead songs, Merriweather Post Pavilion sees them reach some kind of denouement where pop music ends and pure sonic experience begins – the sound is the only structure. Dismantling the framework of a pop song almost entirely (but using recurring passages in a very poppy way), the group offer a series of overlapping circular elements, all of which occasionally come together for a chorus but then break apart just as quickly.” JB

“The music itself, at least what’s describable about it, consists of deep bass pulses and art-damaged guitars with overlapping vocal harmonies that rise in a holy chorus. This may sound much like previous Animal Collective highlights, but where those records seemed like a series of accidental masterpieces – the type of work that sounds brilliant only because it’s been culled from hundreds of hours of tape – Merriweather Post Pavilion is a perfectly organized record, not a note out of place, not a second wasted. It has the excitement and energy of Sung Tongs, the ragged sonic glory of Feels, and Strawberry Jam’s ability to make separate parts come together in a glorious whole. Like the best experimental rockers surging toward nirvana – from the Beach Boys to Mercury Rev – Animal Collective have not only created a private soundworld like none other, they’ve also made it an inviting place to visit.” JB

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lady Gaga hit #1 with “Just Dance”

Updated 3/17/2020.

Just Dance

Lady Gaga with Colby O’Donis

Writer(s): Lady Gaga, Nadir "RedOne" Khayat, Aliaune "Akon" Thiam (see lyrics here)


Released: April 8, 2008


First Charted: August 16, 2008


Peak: 13 US, 11 RR, 28 AC, 7 A40, 72 RB, 13 UK, 15 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 1.2 UK, 10.1 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.5 radio, 251.08 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

Lady Gaga’s music and persona wasn’t new. A quarter century earlier, Madonna established herself as the Queen of dance pop, fueled by a revolving-door sense of fashion and overt sexuality capable of drawing controversy like a lightning rod. However, when “Just Dance” emerged on the scene, it was clear the world was ready for a new queen.

Critics praised the song as a synth-pop club anthem WK “with an irresistible hook and a sly lyric.” MX RedOne, the co-writer and producer of “Just Dance,” said the song “was essentially a rock track but with synths instead of guitars. Big drums. The vocals were the melody, with a simple chorus.” SF

Stefani Germanotta (who took her stage name from the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga”) SF said “That record saved my life. I was in such a dark space in New York. I was so depressed, always in a bar. I got on a plane to LA to do my music..I never went back.” WK She was hung-over when she wrote it in about ten minutes with RedOne during her first time in a Hollywood studio. WK She sings about getting drunk and disoriented at a night club, but that everything will be okay if she just dances. SF

The song took 22 weeks to ascend to the top in the U.S., the longest trip since Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” hit #1 in November 2000 in its 27th week on the charts. SF The song also hit #1 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. WK It was a top five hit in the Czech Republic, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. WK


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