Bruce Springsteen - Magic Album Review

Review of Magic Album by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen Magic Album

Magic

Album Review

The speed with which Magic follows the Seeger Sessions album has been a surprise for all Bruce Springsteen fans - recorded at the start of 2007, while still pushing the Seeger project, this is his fifteenth studio album. Unfortunately, the speed and even the return of the E Street Band, has not helped this album. Some of the songs still stun, and the album seems to reference a number of previous discs - The Rising and Devils and Dust mainly - but it also has a few tracks that would have previously only made it to the Tracks collections of outtakes. Your Own Worst Enemy and Girls In Their Summer Clothes are among the weakest songs that Bruce Springsteen has ever recorded, and others seem rushed to disc ahead of their time, with so-so lyrics.

The variety of styles recalls (the underrated) Human Touch or The Rising - having started strongly with Radio Nowhere, and the excellent You'll Be Comin' Down, the mood swings to New Jersey shore soul with Livin' In The Future (like a River outtake) before Side 1 (on the LP) goes to pot. Side 2 is a lot better - I'll Work For Your Love, Long Walk Home and especially Last To Die (the last two the only overtly political songs) are excellent. The song that closes the disc, Broke The Mould, is unlisted, and refers to a friend who died recently. It is one of the best songs on the album. In the Bruce Springsteen canon, Magic is sadly not one of the classics - it is less Rising II than Human Touch II.

Rating 8/10

Mike Rea




Official Site - http://www.brucespringsteen.net

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Comments

Neil Quentin Yorris's picture

Neil Quentin Yorris

Well, come on then, Mike, put those details in your review! I recognize that your review was generally positive, but I couldn't help but think what I did about what you wrote given that it was so short. Are there length limits on this site? I understand the urge to be concise, but let us see more where you're coming from. I think Girls is much more Hungry Heart than Waitin' (even though I liked that song), and in general I find this album much more akin to The River than anything since--maybe River outtakes, but those outtakes are pretty darn good. John Cougar would have killed for those outtakes. And I think that rather than rushed (with the possible exception of Radio Nowhere) I think the lyrics are more subtle and complex than most of his work. Devil's Arcade is devastating, and the kind of understated emotion that only a mature Bruce could manage. And the title track is a terrific indictment of the administration without being heavyhanded. I also think Gypsy Biker is a tremendous song with lyrics that hearken all the way back to Greetings and a sound that could almost fit in BTR sessions.Actually, I've seen some folks praising Your Own Worst Enemy--EW and some other outfit, plus a buddy of mine. But I'd agree with you that it's one of the weaker songs.I agree with you about Real Man, but we'll just have to differ on Man's Job. Actually a lot of those HT songs would have benefited from E Street renditions plus better production (I'm thinking of Real World in particular), but I still think that album's very weak.I'll take back my previous vitriol, but I still think this album is a great one!

6 years 11 months ago
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Neil Quentin Yorris's picture

Neil Quentin Yorris

I will agree with you there.So there is a word limit! I understand the brevity then. Rock on.

6 years 11 months ago
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Neil Quentin Yorris's picture

Neil Quentin Yorris

Well, cripes, Mike, get those details in your review! Is there some word-limit limitation on this site? Though I would still have disagreed, your review would have only have been stronger with some of the information you shared in that comment. Have to disagree with you about Man's Job, for one thing (it's not very good at all, but yes, neither is Real Man). And actually, though it's hardly my favorite, I've seen a number of reviews lauding Your Own Worst Enemy--EW, maybe, though I can't remember now. And it's my buddy's favorite, for some reason.I hardly think it's somehow damning to say a song is I Wanna Marry You revisited. That's an interesting song, much more interesting, bittersweet lyrics than it appears at first glance. It's hardly some empty ballad. And yeah, there's not much depth to Waitin' On a Sunny Day, but there's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be a light tune following Into the Fire. But Girls has much more of the cinematic imagery Bruce is known for, and it's hardly as breezy as it appears (He's "gonna burn this town down," the girl has left him, and why do the girls pass him by?).Livin in the Future--most cite either the River or Tenth-Avenue, in large part due to Clarence's presence, which is nowhere to be found in HT. You also don't see the dark lyrics slyly hidden in a party-sounding song in that HT-LT era. Those songs are much more straightforward than anything here.I don't see any real progression or coherent theme on HT like I do here. HT is very much just an album of songs, more so than any of his albums. Magic, on the other hand, is a concept album in the same sense as BTR, Darkness, TOL and The Rising, though it's also much more subtle in its construction. As a buddy of mine theorized, you've got the first half of the album using relationship metaphors for his feelings about the state of the country; then, following the title track, the metaphor kind of inverts, and suddenly you have the state of the union impacting relationships. And yes, Magic, Long Walk Home, Devil's Arcade is more late-era Bruce than the earlier tracks, but I'd argue that may be by design as well. It's a much more interesting work than it first appears; I can understand the initial reaction by some that it's mostly a party record, but if you dig deeper there's as much, and in many cases more, going on as on any of his albums. And even if it is only as good as a side of Tracks, that's pretty damn good. John Cougar would kill for songs as good as are on Tracks. Many of those songs are better than what made it to the albums but just didn't quite fit the theme, or there just wasn't room. But as I said, I think Magic is far more than just a mishmash of random songs. I'll take back some of my previous vitriol, as you've made it clear you are a real fan (unlike that loser Derogatis), but I do think you're wrong, and I'm betting you'll come around at some point.

6 years 11 months ago
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Mike Rea's picture

Mike Rea

I do have a word limit, I'm afraid... Not imposed by ContactMusic, but by the newspapers the column goes to...It sounds as though we're not a million miles apart, but we'll just have to agree to disagree on Girls! No disrespect for Tracks, by the way - I'd been living with most of those songs through one boot or another for ages, and often do prefer the unreleased stuff to the songs that make it through.I had listened all the way through about 15 times before reviewing, and I've probably listened another 20 or so since. The album it reminds me of most is actually the BITUSA outtakes album/ boot, with None But The Brave, Murder Incorporated, My Love Will Not Let You Down, etc., plus some Darkness and River outtakes. But none of that would have made sense to most of the people who (probably don't) read my column.I am also at variance with many on the quality of (some of) Human Touch. The songs I'd pull out and defend to the hilt are Human Touch, Cross My Heart, With Every Wish, Roll of the Dice, I Wish I Were Blind, Long Goodbye and Real World (how could you not after hearing it acoustic solo on piano?). That's a pretty good list of songs... THAT Human Touch is the one I mean, so my reference is to an album I like.I did say there were songs that stun, and I think that's about right... Let's agree on that!

6 years 11 months ago
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swedeen's picture

swedeen

I won't comment on the minutia of the previous comments (I'm not that smart) except to say that I love the Magic album. If there's one thing to say about digital media, it;s that I can't wear the album out on my I-pod. In fact, it's been hard to resist listening to it over and over. Only Born to Run ( fpor Springsteen) rivals this for me dspite the fact that I own almost every Springsteen album.To each his (or her own). I like this CD immensely.

6 years 9 months ago
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Neil Quentin Yorris's picture

Neil Quentin Yorris

First of all, the last song is entitled "Terry's Song," not "Broke the Mould" (sic). Exactly how does the album "reference" Devils & Dust and The Rising? You don't say. In fact, you don't say very much at all. It "references" D&D and The Rising, it "recalls" Human Touch and The Rising, it is less The Rising II than Human Touch II. On what exactly do you base any of this?If you listened closer, you might notice this is quite a complex album, more so than most in his career. The lyrics are complicated in a way that in no way resembles Human Touch, an out-of-touch, session-musician work that is by far the slightest album Bruce has ever made and consistently ranks at the very bottom of any ranking of his albums. None of the songs here are quite what they seem; even the brightest have dark, bittersweet lyrics, including Girls in Their Summer Clothes, which you consider one of the worst of his career and isn't anywhere close (worse than Human Touch's "Man's Job"? I suppose you consider that "underrated"). This is in fact an important work that ranks just below his great run from WIESS to The River, and many reviewers who have taken the time to listen and consider seem to recognize that.This review strikes me as rushed and slight. You mention a lot of album titles, which, along with band names, is a typical ploy of reviewers who want to skip the hard work of in-depth analysis and instead opt for "insta-cred."

6 years 11 months ago
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Mike Rea's picture

Mike Rea

Massive apologies for calling Terry's Song wrong - I reviewed the album based on the vinyl copy, and there was no title to lift from at the time...I stand by the 'Girls' comment - for me, it's a throwaway of the Waiting on A Sunny Day variety - I hope it comes alive in concert. I presume you mean Real Man from Human Touch - Man's Job is a pretty decent song. You must be cleverer than I am if you can glean something from the lyrics - there is nothing there to suggest other than I Wanna Marry You revisited. Yup, I'd put Girls in the same box as 57 Channels, or Real Man. I haven't come across anyone defending Your Own Worst Enemy yet, by the way...Living In The Future - which Human Touch song do you want me to choose from? Those reviewers who are 'more considered than me' refer to the River for this one, but it's less Sherry Darling than Real World...Magic, Devil's Arcade, Long Walk Home are all songs I'd put in the D&D-with-band category... Which is the same place I'd put The Rising album...Instead of insta-cred, I'm a massive fan. I have some 400 Springsteen albums on the shelf/ hard disk, so I was genuinely pained writing that review (as for the quality of the writing... clearly you'd make a better job of it). Suggesting that only reviewers who agree with you have 'taken the time to listen and consider' is unfair. I like the disc (and said so, as well as rating it highly). However, it sounds like a side from Tracks to me, and the point of reviewing isn't to be all fanboy just because Springsteen's my favourite artist.

6 years 11 months ago
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