Working On a Dream, the latest and the 24th studio album recorded by Bruce Springsteen started taking shape during the recording of his previous album , Magic but the songs on the new album didn’t make the cut on Magic as Springsteen felt that they carried a different feel to them. So the sequel to 2007’s record breaking Magic finally released on January 23rd 2009 just after the “Boss” Bruce Springsteen and his East Street Band finished their World Tour in which they were promoting Magic.
Working On a Dream comprises 12 songs and one bonus single titled “The Wrestler” which is also the Original Sound Track (O.S.T) for the 81st Academy Award nominated motion picture “The Wrestler”.
The opening track, “Outlaw Pete” is a wonderful blend of Country Music and the typical East Street Band’s pop melody. It tells the tale of a Country Cowboy with Bruce Springsteen keeping his lyrics plain, simple and soul touching as always. The track focuses on an explicit use of violins right from the introductory riff to the bridges. Springsteen’s clean electric guitar and the subtle use of piano by Roy Bittain make the song a beauty with the Boss making singing very open and with a clean powerful throw.
Songs like “My Lucky Day” instantly reminds one of the band’s early classic “Born to Run” with a simple but very catchy introductory riff that continues throughout the song , crisp drum beats by Max Weinberg and piano fills that add on to the fun feel created. The guitar remains simple and melodious, just like the East Street Band from back in the day. The high point of the song is when the saxophone comes in and sweeps the listeners back to the 70’s and 80’s when the Band created beauty time after time.
The title track “Working on A Dream” creates a wonderful four minutes of melody as Springsteen gets backed by harmonies from background vocalists with the music remaining sweet, simple and melodious. The song “Queen of the Supermarket” focuses on the silent romance with a shop girl and as Bruce sings “As the evening sky turns blue, a Dream awaits in aisle number two” he strikes a chord with every believer in love as he reminds them of the beauty in the simplicity of love. Bassist Garry Tallent opens the song “What Love Can Do” with a strong and punchy bass line and keeps the punch alive right till the end. The songs lyrics again pay tribute to love and romance and bring about a feeling of positivism in the heart of the listener.
Another strong punch in the introduction by Bassist Tallent and pianist Bittain in the song “This Life” marks for another catchy tune as Springsteen follows up with his deep, clear and powerful throw vocals. The synthesizer tones in the background, especially in the chorus compliment Springsteen’s voice with a very choir orchestra feel. The uses of harmonies again mark one of the trademarks of the basic soul of the album. “Good Eye” brings back the spirit of country music, a heavy inspiration for the band especially for Springsteen with extensive use of the Mouth Organ and the tight six string acoustic guitar along with ragged sharp edges vocals and sweet sounding guitar pinches. Although nothing in particular is bad about the song, it remains one of the low points of the album.
The spirit of country floats to find its way in the next song “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a truly beautiful song that sounds like the perfect song from the American West in the late eighteen hundreds. Springsteen brings out the beauty of romance and simple love in this song with soft and plain vocals and beautiful lyrics. As he sings “Where the cold wind blows, tomorrow never knows and where your sweet smile goes, tomorrow never knows” he urges us to enjoy every second and relish every moment in the present, while we find ourselves already in lush green fields and under the golden sun walking hand in hand with the love of our life with warmth and elation in our heart. The band truly hits the nail in this song by conveying their message on the beauty of love.
“Life Itself” comprises good base vocals, a catchy guitar and a consistent beat on the bass drum and on the snare (drum) with a strong and prominent bass line that makes the sound more contemporary than any other song in the album. The next song finds a blend of the 70’s blues, old school country and the East Street Band’s trademark popular tune. “Kingdom of Days” is a beautifully penned down song bringing romance again to the forefront and stressing on the power of love and how everything becomes futile in front of it. “Surprise, Surprise” matches up to songs like My Lucky Day. “Working on a Dream” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” fail to create magic neither in the vocals nor in the background score and adds up along with ‘Good Eye” as the low points of the album. “The Last Carnival” is a song dedicated to the late organ player and the founding member of The East Street Band “Danny Federici” who lost his battle with cancer in April 2008. The song ends with Springsteen hitting a very deep note in a low octave and is a touching tribute. The song is considered to be a sequel to 1973’s “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” from “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle”.
The album has picked up from where it left i.e. their previous album “Magic”. It carries on with the same flow, only the feeling of love and romance is much more prominent. It brings about a definite shift in Bruce’s vocals and writing style from the previous decade as the lyrics are non political, in sharp contrast to his strong criticism of various international issues like the Bush government and American foreign policy in the Vietnam among others that saw him rise to the top with smash hits like “Born in the USA”. It received very mixed reviews as the Rolling Stone magazine gave it 5 stars and Los Angeles Times writer Ann Powers said “The best thing that can be said about Working on a Dream is that it’s boisterously scatterbrained, exhilaratingly bad.”
The album however comes at a time where rock and roll has one foot in the grave and its other is being pushed into it by modern Punk bands and Emo bands that mistake horrible screaming with melody and vocalists screech and growl all over the microphone to cover up their inability to hit a clean, high pitched note. The album is a very strong effort towards reviving the beauty and essence of rock and roll and goes a long way in achieving that goal. With more than three decades of making magic with their song-writing skills and amazing composing skills, the Boss and his band have proved that the last thing to age in this world is the heart.