MASTERFUL: That’s the only word

MASTERFUL: That’s the only word I can think of to describe the new Bruce Springsteen album “The Rising.” The first major work of American popular culture to respond conclusively to the events of September 11 does just about everything right: it’s moving but not schmaltzy, serious but not depressing, honest but not self-righteous, and authoritative but not preachy or condescending. And damn, these are some beautiful songs- the Band is back and at the top of their game, contributing gorgeous melodies and musical arrangments that fit just right.
“The Rising” is a sort of concept album in which almost every song relates in some way to 9/11, and each is told from the point of a view of someone different- a fireman, a widow, someone watching the burning towers, and Bruce himself. These evocative reminders of that tragic day all lead into the crescendo at the end of “My City of Ruins”: “Come on, rise up!” The very formula that has underlined Springsteen’s best songwriting for 30 years (“times may be tough but hey, if you haven’t got hope, what have you got?”) is sensibly and brilliantly adapted to the World Trade Center tragedy.
The best songs: “Into the Fire” (best chorus of any song this year, no question); “Mary’s Place,” “You’re Missing,” the title track, and “My City of Ruins.” That last track, ironically enough, was written two years ago not about September 11 but about Bruce’s deserted adopted hometown of Asbury Park. That was the setting today for the Boss’ performance on this morning’s “Today” show, where he made clear that he has his relevance and authority back- and much like U2 two years ago, Bruce and the E-Streeters have made an album so great that it’s likely to instantly return them to their deserved spot on the musical A-list. And better them than Britney Spears, right?
Unlike a way is found to pacify Courtney Love and finally give a release to those long-lost Nirvana tracks, I can’t foresee any album this year better than “The Rising.” Thanks, Boss.

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