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Springsteen Album-By-Album Discussion/Costume Party

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Dr. Zoom, May 31, 2019.

  1. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Monmouth County NJ
    [​IMG]

    WORKING ON A DREAM

    Released January 27, 2009

    Ostensibly released so as to have new “product” available for Springsteen’s Super Bowl appearance (an ominous harbinger if there ever was one), this release is mostly a group of outtakes and castoffs from the Magic Sessions. Recorded with the ESB and again produced by Brendan O’ Brien. Springsteen wanted to record a record “hot off the road with the ESB”. OK....

    Where to begin.

    First, the positives. I think The Wrestler is one of the most affecting post-reunion songs Springsteen has written. Beautiful track. I believe this was a bonus track or something like that.

    The reason I’m not sure is because this is the first Springsteen album -ever- I chose not to buy. After hearing the title track and Outlaw Pete (more on that in a moment I’m sure) I figured I’d be better saving the 10 bucks. I do not regret this decision.

    I’m not exactly sticking my neck out by saying this is Springsteen’s worst album. HH could be worse, WB is pretty lousy too. Yes, there are some pretty weak songs on WOAD, but the thing that stands out to me is its singular, relentless blandness. It’s just faceless, bland pop music, totally inoffensive, perfect for a suburban dentist office. The songs are full of airy, cliched platitudes that would be a good audio companion to a J Crew catalog.

    Outlaw Pete? Queen of the Supermarket? Surprise Surprise? Pick your poison. It’s all silly candy fluff.

    Relationship music? Sure. But there’s nothing on WOAD that you can’t get from inside an Amanda Bradley card from Hallmark.

    I think the most laughable part of this period was the Springsteen camp’s comparisons of WOAD to...get this...Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper! It was like when David Brent compared himself to Jesus Christ.

    Never thought he’d ever mail an entire album in. This is about where I really started losing interest.
    The tour was a strange exercise in pretending the new album didn’t exist, and playing old classic albums to wash away any foul residue that may still exist. The silly album cover is a good match for the music inside.

    But The Wrestler is a gem. Ok, have at it.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
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  2. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Personally I'd want to hear BTR and Thunder Road at every show, I think the pinnacles of his art. I'm not sure I've ever seen a show where he didn't play those. Interesting take on "Badlands"...and I thought I had the outlier Springsteen opinions. I first saw Springsteen in '78 on the Darkness tour where "Badlands" was the ass-kicking, totally appropriate, explosive lift off opener, or opener after an oldie cover ("Summertime Blues" the August night I saw the tour). It's kind of kept it's pride if not of place at least of inclusion I think since then, but I'm not sure it works the way it did (not least because I don't think Max Weinberg is the drummer anymore than he used to be).
     
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  3. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I'll get this out of the way. Lots of folks on this thread know already that I'm the outlier in really liking this album.

    "Outlaw Pete" is a swing and a miss for me, completely. The melody lift from KISS, intentional though it may have been, is a non starter (I once wrote a song, it was a slow one so I didn't realize until well into the point of writing it that the melody and harmony had been completely lifted from Ashford and Simpson "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." I tried to rework the song, but it wasn't there anymore, so it had to go). But I like it even less because I feel like there's a gulf between it's slight content and it's almost comically epic musical pretensions.

    After that, I think the record is pretty wonderful, honestly. I love "Queen of the Supermarket." That's exactly the kind of story telling, slice of life, inner monologue song that I love and that I thought everyone is always complaining that Springsteen doesn't write any more.

    The rest of the album is full of charming, personal, sometimes family focused, sometimes metaphysical/spiritual, sometimes both, songs of a sort descended in a way from the wonderful "You Own Worst Enemy."

    In particularly I adore "Kingdom of Days," which always makes me emotional as an aging guy 30 years into a marriage, it's a song I relate to a lot more than I relate to Born to Run at this point in my life. "This Life," too. "What Love Can Do" and the title track, which has a feel of a throw back to the gospel idea of Working on a Building, and wonderful relaxed rhythm feel. I think it's a really deep, lovely album of making domestic peace with life, love, death, and a universe you can't control but you can find succor in the continuity of. In some ways I find it a more moving and easier to listen to album than Magic (if you skip "Outlaw Pete").

    There are many Springsteen albums I like less than this -- The Rising, Devils & Dust, Letter to You, probably Western Stars too, definitely High Hopes, probably Seeger Sessions, I like that one, but I play it a lot less, and probably Wrecking Ball too, but more on that when it comes up. Not Springsteen's worst album at all.

    "The Wrestler" doesn't really fit the album but it's a good one too (great movie also).
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  4. BeatleBruceMayer

    BeatleBruceMayer Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florida
    I hated this album when I first heard it, but it quickly grew on me and is now one of my absolute favorites. I know most will disagree with me, but it's my ears and my tastes.

    Outlaw Pete is a fun song. So what if the riff sounds like KISS. Why are people so uptight about the line "at six months old he'd done three months in jail." As someone who has to teach folktales every year, this fits in with stories like Paul Bunyan, Stormalong, and Pecos Bill.

    Working on a Dream is ok. I think it's one of the two weakest on the album along with Queen. Queen is a song which I can't decide if it's bad or so bad it's actually good.

    This Life. I saw Dr. Zoom's complaints about comparisons to Pet Sounds, but this song immediately makes me think of that album.

    Kingdom of Days is one of his best songs which captures growing old together with someone you love. This and Surprise, Surprise have two of my favorite instrumental parts.

    The Last Carnival is a beautiful tribute to Danny or thinking about a friend who has passed.

    The Wrestler isn't part of the proper album, but it's another great song. Again, people got so bent out of shape about a "one-legged dog."

    The rest of the songs are enjoyable. It's also one of the few Bruce albums my wife would enjoy listening to. She went to a handful of shows with me, but wasn't really into it. But she connected with this album. Maybe that's a reason why it means something to me.

    I thought The Promise perfectly complemented this album. I can listen to Magic, WOAD, The Promise, and High Hopes any day of the week. And now throw in Letter to You. Basically, I'll take any album done with the E Street Band over his solo or reduced ESB efforts except for Western Stars.
     
  5. mike_mike

    mike_mike neurodiverse

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    I'm convinced this LP partially came about due to a misunderstanding about Zooropa.
     
  6. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Monmouth County NJ
    WOAD in the lead 2-1!!
     
  7. mike_mike

    mike_mike neurodiverse

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    "Wish fulfillment is the satisfaction of a desire through an involuntary thought process. Wish fulfillment can occur in dreams or in daydreams, in the symptoms of neurosis, or in the hallucinations of psychosis. This satisfaction is often indirect and requires interpretation to recognize.

    Sigmund Freud coined the term (Wunscherfüllung) in 1900 in an early text titled The Interpretation of Dreams.



    Wikisource has Freud's original book about wish fulfillment:

    The Interpretation of Dreams

    According to Freud, wish fulfillment occurs when unconscious desires are repressed by the ego and superego. This repression often stems from guilt and taboos imposed by society. Dreams are attempts by the unconscious to resolve some repressed conflict.[2]"
     
  8. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    As I recall, he didn’t play many songs from WOAD on that tour and one of the criticisms he got on the ‘92-93 tour was that he stopped playing a lot of the new material and started playing more old songs as the tour went on. If he doesn’t reach a city until late in a tour, those fans have been frequently been denied the opportunity to hear performances of the new songs, which is unfortunate.

    The Rising and Magic tours did seem to be more about the new songs, I agree.
     
  9. musicaner

    musicaner Forum Resident

    one good song WRESTLER.
    Does he play any of it live?
     
  10. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    I remember hearing horrible things about this album and I thought it couldn't possibly be that bad. I didn't really care enough to find out. But one day I was thinking about it and I picked a song from the album at random and plugged it into YouTube just to hear.

    "Surprise, Surprise." Wow. What a nothing of a song. Just absolutely nothing to it. Vapor hanging in the air.

    If someone else had done it, you could ignore it. But it's Springsteen, and damn...you just expect more than that.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  11. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Monmouth County NJ
    "Surprise, Surprise"

    Well surprise, surprise, surprise
    Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise
    Well surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down

    Well surprise, surprise, surprise
    Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise
    Well surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down

    Well today is your birthday
    We've traveled so far we two
    So let's blow out the candles on your cake
    And we'll raise a glass or two
    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

    Well surprise, surprise, surprise
    Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise
    Well surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down

    In the hollow of the evening, as you lay your head to rest
    May the evening stars scatter a shining crown upon your breast
    In the darkness of the morning, as the sky struggles to light
    May the rising sun caress and bless your soul throughout your life

    Well surprise, surprise, surprise
    Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise
    Well surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down

    Well surprise, surprise, surprise
    Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise
    Well surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down (let your love shine down)
    Let your love shine down (let your love shine down)
    Let your love shine down

    Surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes
    And let your love shine down
     
  12. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    (The conversation has moved on past this, but I didn't get a chance to reply until now.)

    I'm sure many do operate on such superficial levels. My friend isn't one of those people. I hope you can see the nuance in what he was pointing out: That beyond implying his political inclinations through his music, or even just making a simple declaration of who he was going to vote for and encouraging others to do the same, Springsteen actually weaponized his music against my friend and his political inclinations. He took "No Surrender" and "Thunder Road" and "The Promised Land" – songs which had previously established universal themes – and propagandized them in the service of a political party. It's too easy to sidestep the ramifications of an artistic choice like that by Springsteen by tarring the people who react to it as simpleminded tribalists. Understanding why Springsteen ever thought it was a good idea to exploit the sacred trust he'd established between his audience and his songs is a far more interesting question to unravel, as far as I'm concerned.

    Out of respect to this really excellent thread (great commentary from all, even those who I might disagree with), I don't mind if I don't get any further discussion on this, but I think it's an important point to ponder.
     
  13. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    I don't know what to say. It's just so terrible. I'm willing to believe a set of lyrics this bad can still rise above in a great arrangement and performance...but this song is a total dud on those scores as well.
     
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  14. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    He rose to the occasion for this song.* And, yes, the movie was a really great, emotionally satisfying film.

    * Although I've never seen a one-legged dog going down the street.
     
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  15. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Monmouth County NJ
    If you like fairy dust, sparkly stars and birthday cakes, this is the album for you.

    On a slightly more serious note, I forgot about the song about Danny. That’s a good one. Is that a bonus track too?
     
  16. Brian_Svoboda

    Brian_Svoboda Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I was on a road trip thirty years ago with a local Democratic political figure, well known where we lived, and a self-described populist -- a good guy. "Live 1975-1985" was on the tape deck -- I can't remember which track -- and he blurted out, I like Bruce, but I really don't like the political $#!~. So, just from anecdotal experience, I am not sure the objection to Bruce's pursuit of politics in his performance can be *entirely* reduced to opposition on the merits.
     
  17. rihajarvi

    rihajarvi Forum Resident

    this guy wrote new york city serenade
     
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  18. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    It's funny you mention this. I have another very close friend who was an early diehard of Bruce from Born to Run through Nebraska. Super duper liberal, aligned with Bruce's politics as you'd expect. But he couldn't stand Born in the USA, all the (what he perceived as) hamfisted approaches to gaining mass appeal, like the wardrobe choices and stage show changes. "Bruce is such a phony!" Really turned him off. "Tunnel of Love" got him back a little bit, but he fell off the Bruce train again and never went back. Not even the naked appeals to politics. But my friend was a musicians' musician, and the music was really important to him. Sadly, he died last year so I can't talk to him about any of this stuff anymore. I really miss him.

    * PS: Unlike my friend, I adore Born in the USA. I think it's a great album top to bottom. So what do I know?
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
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  19. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I don’t think this album is as bad as some people think and I think it was here where Bruce first tried out his idea for adult -oriented late ‘60’s California pop that would bear fruit with Western Stars , which though released a decade later , was probably ( mostly) recorded within a couple years of this album.
    You can hear it in the intro of the title cut and on “Kingdom of Days” especially.
    That said, the only songs I really like are “ What Love Can Do”, “ The Wrestler “ and of course the beautiful“ The Last Carnival.” All would fit on Magic

    “ My Lucky Day” is fun. It could be airdropped onto Human Touch in place of “ Roll of the Dice” --and no one would be the wiser.

    Compared to what would come next, WOAD would seem halfway decent.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  20. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I always thought he really meant to say "three-legged dog"--which we've all seen ( the sight of which is both sad and life-affirming in equal measure) and just messed up.
     
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  21. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I know what you mean, and you are correct. No one truly know the motivations of others. We can speculate, but we'll never know for sure.
    Speaking only from my own observation, the people who bluster the loudest about Bruce's politics are not--and never really were --fans.
     
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  22. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Senior Member

    Location:
    The Southwest
    You would never know from hearing the post-2000 output discussed so far.
     
  23. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    I've missed on "Thunder Road" several times, but I also don't think that I've ever seen a great live performance of it. I agree that "Badlands" in the pre-Reunion era was intense and powerful live. Unfortunately, he didn't play it at the first few shows I saw so I never saw it in its lean and mean live incarnation. Post-Reunion, he's almost always (that I've heard and seen) extended the song with this long coda that he never used to play. The only purpose of the coda (after a false ending) is to have the crowd sing "oh oh oh" endlessly. It's a huge waste of time and I am always thinking of all of the great songs he could be using that time to play instead. But, no, apparently hearing 20,000 people sing "oh oh oh" is more important. Ticks me off to the point where I really don't want to hear him play that bloated, sickly version of the song ever again.
     
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  24. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Senior Member

    Location:
    The Southwest
    Working On A Dream is another uneven 2000's era album. Some fans think it is the worst, and it may be, but there are three or four albums vying for that distinction. While I think this album contains about three or four decent-to-good songs, what drags it so low its that the substandard songs are very substandard, among the worst in the catalogue. Fortunately this was the end of his association with O'Brien, although some additional O'Brien produced tracks would surface on subsequent projects.
     
  25. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Senior Member

    Location:
    The Southwest
    Agreed. I actually have trouble tolerating those sing-along, in-concert renditions of those standards. The master recording of Thunder Road is one of Springsteen's greatest achievements, and it has become watered-down fluff in concert.
     
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