55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2005
Essentially there are two kinds of Springsteen fans. There are fans of "The Boss", who love Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. and care more about the fist-pumping power of the E Street Band and massive hooks than Bruce as a songwriter. Then, there are Bruce Springsteen fans who love the "The Boss" characteristics as much as anyone but also come for the songwriting and lyrical depth. This album will be loved by fans of Bruce Springsteen, but those who want The Boss should steer clear.
First, this album is not exactly analagous to Tom Joad and Nebraska sonically. Though it doesn't sound a thing like Tunnel of Love it is similar in that the arrangements are sparse but electric guitars and big drums show up from time to time. There are a couple of outright rockers.
Many of the stories are an extension of Tom Joad and take place in the American Southwest, but there is enough variety to keep it from being a sequel. Virtually every song features people dealing with difficult circumstances, and there is little along triumph and celebration along the way. From the main character in "All the Way Home" looking for romantic redemption to the man in "Reno" seeking comfort in the embrace of a prostitute after true love failed him ("Somehow all you ever need's, never really quite enough you know/You and I, Maria, we learned it's so"), Devils and Dust is filled with people dealing with disillusionment and broken dreams. You may not retreat, you may not surrender, but that doesn't guarantee you'll win, either.
Fans of Springsteen's underrated guitar playing will be treated to his best acoustic rhythm playing to date. There may not be any screaming Esquire leads or flashy licks, but Devils and Dust is filled with melodic finger picking and other rhythm parts that could carry the songs by themselves.
To make a film analogy, this album has something in common with Sin City. For those who love grim and gritty film noir Sin City is a masterpiece, but anyone without a strong stomach would be automatically turned off by it's very nature. That, in essence, is the story of Devils and Dust. If you love Springsteen the songwriter and see the beauty and power of examining the dark side of life, Devils and Dust is a can't-miss prospect. If you want Dancing in the Dark or Hungry Heart, this isn't for you. It doesn't dimish the album in any way, it simply makes it what it is.
167 of 211 people found the following review helpful
Bruce Springsteen gives to us with his newest CD an outstanding collection of songs about REAL life. There are songs about the agony and bitterness of life not going as planned; confessions from people Bruce sings of that are painful yet very well done; and even a happy song about new life coming into this world. People are not always in peril! SMILE The overall effect of this CD is enhanced by Bruce's decision to create the songs with a distinct acoustic flavor and the album shines brightly for all seasons! This will go down as one of his more artistic CDs. Devils and Dust is also a "dual disc" CD; it has 12 CD tracks on one side and DVD features on the other side-awesome!
The album starts off strong with the title track, "Devils & Dust." This song is somewhat political (although the album as a whole is not). Bruce sings of a war in which both sides bitterly fight each other to the death-all supposedly in God's name. The album's producer, Brenden O'Brien, added some good extras to the musical arrangement for this song. You hear great piano playing and the electronic beats are perfectly timed! The next track, "All The Way Home," is equally well done. Bruce's intonation and voice are in fine shape here. Another song to look out for on this CD is entitled "Reno." Here Bruce sings about very graphic sexual relationships involving cheating and more. The song "Long Time Comin'" sports a fiddle and an awesome steel guitar! This song is a bit complicated. It has an element that is something practically anyone can relate to: Bruce sings of a person who is promising never to make a mess of things in life again. (Note: Bruce uses a strong word in this song; parents may want to make a note of this.) Nevertheless, "Long Time Comin'" is also a song about a happy event in life: the expected birth of a newborn child. AND, how's about these lines: as he and his woman lie together in bed, Bruce sings "I reach `neath your shirt, lay my hands across your belly; And feel another one kicking inside."
A particularly powerful song that has people wide awake-already-is entitled "The Hitter." Here Bruce sings of a professional boxer who gets paid to beat men up for sport. The boxer tries to explain to his mother his upsetting, secluded way of life. On the surface this is exactly what the song is about; but on another level Bruce is really singing about how rough life is and how particularly brutal and cruel people are to each other in this world. The ending lyric simply states that this horror is just the plain old fact of life: "Understand, in the end, Ma, every man plays the game/ If you know one different, then speak out his name." I especially liked the song entitled "Jesus Was an Only Son." This emotional, frank song reveals a mother's thoughts about the only child she ever had. Very well done! "All I'm Thinkin' About," with Bruce singing falsetto to add to the emotional impact of the song, is a stunning love ballad that you will be fond of right away! The CD ends with the incredible emotional song "Matamoros Banks." "Matamoros Banks" is essentially an appeal for remembrance by an illegal immigrant who attempts to cross the Rio Grande but fails tragically resulting in death. I can't help but feel sympathy for people abused in other countries who so desperately want to come to live in America when I hear this song. Bruce does this so well; you really feel a true, deep pity and sorrow for the immigrant.
As I noted before, this is a "dual disc" CD. There are TWO sides that play-the first side has 12 CD tracks; the reverse has DVD features. There are five DVD tracks which were recorded live. The DVD side of the disc highlights Bruce's between-song commentary. This offers the listener/viewer an excellent sense of Bruce's perspective. Which side you choose first is up to you; both offer great value. However, if you listen to the CD side first and then the DVD side however you may want to then go back to the CD side to listen again to the songs Bruce talks about so you can get even more out of these songs.
All in all, Bruce Springsteen puts out here an excellent artistic collection of songs that is also, in its uniquely beautiful way, positively electric! And NOPE, with this beautiful album I didn't need the E Street band for Bruce to reach me!
I would highly recommend this CD to ANY Bruce Springsteen fan as well as fans of great songs with fantastic musical arrangements that deal with life-the way it really is. Great job, Bruce!
84 of 111 people found the following review helpful
"Devils & Dust" occupies a spot somewhere between "Nebraska" and "Tunnel of Love" in the Springsteen canon.
Yes, it is spare, when compared to some of the full-bodied arrangements of the E Street Band, but it's NOT just Bruce and a guitar, like "Nebraska".
Nor is it as monotonous and bleak as "The Ghost of Tom Joad". Not even close.
In fact, many songs have full guitar-bass-drums back-ups, with synths, horns and back-up vocals sprinkled throughout the entire disc. Many are up-tempo as well.
It's a serious and heavy record, but it has its' foot-stomping moments here and there. In the same way, "Nebraska" has a zippy tune or two, so does this. It most definitely moves.
What makes this more of a nakedly "confessional" album is not that Bruce is opening himself up, revealing more of himself. He instead is immersing himself in various other characters, and brings them breathtakingly alive in each of his songs...little vignettes...little movies.
Many songs have "protagonists", just like a novel or a film. Bruce occupies each character, and THEN opens them for us to examine, to experience. He sings in different "voices", one half-spoken, one more "southern", another in falsetto...all according to the person he's singing about. Or more correctly, the voice of the character singing.
Many things will be written about "Reno", but I guarantee you'll be fixated with his tale of a man and a hooker. Shoot...the lyrics read like a tight little short story.
You'll be haunted by "Matamoros Bank", one of the several songs dealing, either directly or indirectly, with the plight of immigrants in the U.S. He had covered this area before in Joad's "Across The Border" but nothing like this.
You'll smile when the "band" kicks in on "Maria's Bed", sort of like Bruce goosing the accelerator on a beat-up pick-up truck, barrelling down some dusty back road. He's telling you a story while you sit there in the passenger's seats, grinning from ear to ear.
Each song deserves a separate analysis or their own individual recognition here (and they get a lot of print and praise in the other reviews), but I think you'd be better off, if you at all interested in the album, to go ahead and just get it without reading too many more of these things.
Discover it yourself. It's the type of album where each listener will find all sorts of hidden treasures & unexpected pleasures.
I'll tell you, even for this Springsteen fan, I was quietly impressed. Borderline astonished.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2005
The follow-up to his 2002 tour-de-force "The Rising," Bruce Springsteen's "Devils and Dust" exemplifies that the singer/songwriter has his aesthetic on full throttle. Each of the dozen tracks follows different characters through varying trials and tribulations, with the American west serving as the principle setting.
From the opening chords of the political title track, anyone familiar with Springsteen will see they are in for an adventure filled with sparse production and his signature rustic imagery. His first such album since 1995's underrated "The Ghost of Tom Joad," the disc contains a pair of tracks he performed on his tour in support of that album, "The Hitter" and "Long Time Comin'". The latter is a tale of a conflicted boxer who is more vulnerable than he appears, while the former is a feel-good affair with festive violins and positive lyrics that is hard to shake from memory.
"Maria's Bed" and "All The Way Home" are both just as instantly enjoyable for their lively arrangements that make you want to put them on full blast and repeat. The latter, which was actually penned in 1991 for Southside Johnny's "Better Days" album, renders lyrics that show that the beauty of growing older is the wisdom that comes from it.
To be sure, there is subject matter present on the album that is not so sugary. "Silver Palomino," for instance, finds a 13 year-old reflecting on the death of his mother, and "Jesus Was An Only Son" recounts Christ's crucifixion with particular emphasis on the perspective of Mary and her sacrifice. "Metamoros Banks," however, is the set's ultimate highlight, with its story of a Mexican who perishes in his desperation to flee to America.
With "Devils and Dust," Springsteen is in fine form. The characters he has created and the empathy he displays for them is stronger than it has ever been. Through his music, the voice of America's backbone, as well as that of those who yearn to be part of it, has found a home once again.
All copies of the album utilize new DualDisc technology, with a DVD portion on the flipside of the disc with 5 acoustic performances and insightful interview footage. It should also be noted that "Reno" contains explicit imagery and should not be exposed to those underage.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2005
I hear alot of people are having problems with the Dual Format, well there is an option, you can order the European version as this is normal CD format, and will play ok on your CD player, computer, & any other CD player!!!
As for the album it's great, & really grows on you after a while as well. I'd say it's up there with The Rising & Born in the USA, but if you're more a fan of Springsteen's Born in the USA work & nothing else then don't buy this because it is nothing like that album but if you're a big Springsteen fan then buy this album as it is one of his best!!!!
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2005
I bought "Devils and Dust" with some trepidation. At first listen, I liked perhaps half of it. Liked this, didn't like that, outright cringed more than once. Over the next few weeks, however, I found merit in every track. And frankly these days that's quite a feat. It's not the musician's fault it took me so long to come around.
"Devils and Dust" is a thinking person's record. It takes effort on the listener's part.
And it takes giving a damn. About what? America. It's ideals. It's promise. And, yes, it's failings. "Devils and Dust" is about you and me, the best of us, the worst of us. It's about work, family, hope, and the belief in something outside of yourself. It's about those of us who've screwed up and make no excuses. It's about the many of us who did everything right and still fell hard.
Track by track:
The lyrics of "Devils and Dust" suggest a solider, perhaps manning a checkpoint. He's in an untenable position, in no way of his own making, having to make life and death decisions - his life, the lives of others - in seconds and live with the consequences until the end of his days. The beauty of the song is that it crosses over to the citizen -- soldier or not, reminding the listener the administration has been making life-altering decisions for all of us here at home. As the narrator asks:
"What if what you do to survive kills the things that you love?"
The second track "All the Way Home" is easy listening, requiring no particularly deep thought. It's about a guy hoping for a chance (another chance?) with a girl. Fun and a bit of a toe-tapper. It makes a nice respite before you have to put your mind to work again.
Next is the now infamous "Reno." Picture this: A man in the here and now visits a prostitute. As he lies there, letting her, his gaze moves out the window, and he is reminded of his lost love. As the image moves to the past and his memories, the music changes as does the nature of the lyrics - much more poetic as opposed to the raw but not at all gratuitous opening lines. At some point - the music tells us when - the spell is broken and he is forced back to the here and now. The lyrics become more raw again, emphasizing the difference between the present and the past, and more importantly the difference between sex with a stranger and love with the one he's lost. The ending is as perfect as it is heartbreaking. For those with a heart.
"Long Time Coming" offers hope and is just plain fun. I defy you not to at least want to move to this one. Warning: You may not be able to get the chorus out of your head.
Darn, here he goes again, challenging the listener to think... and feel. "Black Cowboys" is about a boy apparently growing up in a ghetto. His mother is with him all the way when he's younger, telling him to stay home, stay safe, do his homework. But then she meets a man, and he takes her down an all too familiar path to self-destruction. Will he follow in her footsteps, or find his own way?
Ah, sweet redemption again with "Maria's Bed," using what for most will be a new voice for Mr. Springsteen. This is one where I was cringing at first. But I came around.
Next up is "Silver Palomino." I know from the liner notes this was written for two young boys who lost their mother. And it's about a thirteen-year-old who loses his mother and finds her spirit in a wild horse. While I appreciate the beauty and majesty of wild horses, the freedom and hope they suggest, all in all this song just doesn't work for me.
But that's OK because it's followed by a really gorgeous track with a gospel flavor. "Jesus Was an Only Son" looks at the Biblical events from the perspective of a mother and son. The final words deserve quoting:
"Well Jesus kissed his mother's hands.
Whispered, 'Mother still your tears.
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.'"
If that doesn't move you - "Christian," or not - you might want to check if you're still breathing.
Back to that voice again. And me cringing again. I like it, somewhat like "Maria's Bed" thematically, but lacking the same punch.
Next up is "The Hitter." Settle in, it's story time kids. Musically, this one may remind fans the most of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" album. His voice is nearly monotone, but it works to show the matter-of-fact nature of the narrator and his story. A boy leaves home apparently on the run, does what he needs to in order to make a living, has no regrets, shows up at his mother's door as a man not looking for a shot at redemption but a place to rest:
"Ma, if my voice now you don't recognize
Then just open the door and look into your dark eyes
I ask of you nothin', not a kiss not a smile
Just open the door and let me lie down for a while"
And yet again, here's that voice on "All I'm Thinking About." This one really didn't work for me until I listened to the track while a passenger in a moving vehicle. As farm houses and fields flew by, I found myself picturing the narrator in a rocking chair, on a porch in need of painting, with a beat up acoustic, singing softly to a couple of kids at his feet. Then it came alive.
It ends with "Matamoros Banks." The song begins with the end of the narrator's life, working backwards to what leads him to his fate. It's at once striking and heart wrenching.
Bottom line: If you are not a big fan of critical thought, if you don't have what it takes to loose yourself in other peoples' stories, if you think America is so weak it cannot withstand self-assessment, maybe this one's just too challenging for you. That does not make it inherently bad. Not for Mr. Springsteen, not for anyone.
30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2005
Consumers do not need yet another (incompatible) CD format. This will not play on my Dell.
How industry foists this on the public is beyond me. I'll NEVER buy another DualDisc.
29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2005
I'd love to critique this latest Springsteen album, but I can't. Problem is, this CD/DVD disc does not play on all players, as I found out earlier today. Why Sony made an album that only plays on certain players is beyond me, but they did. So, instead of sitting back and enjoying Springsteen's latest work, I have the "satisfaction" of knowing I blew $10 on a CD that I can't listen to.
Until the problems are fixed with this DualDisc, avoid this album, unless you like blowing money.
53 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2005
Yes, another DualDisc rant!
Schitzophrenic Sony's at it again. One division wants to sell you nifty digital hardware, while the other is paranoid about you STEALING THEIR STUFF.
Ok, smart guys, HOW DO I GET THIS MUSIC ONTO MY IPOD? Is there even a standards-compliant audio CD available for PURCHASE? Because DualDisc is not it. I guess if you want to listen to it on your mp3 player, you need to buy the album from the iTunes store.
I can't wait till we start getting reports of the thicker disc jamming in people's slot-loading CD players in their cars.
See this article at Stereophile about DualDisc problems : [...]
See also "Dual Disc Consumer Advisories To Date" from High Fidelity Review [...]
Be an informed customer. Read the label, and don't buy the media if it won't work in your equiptment. No store wants to be hassled by people returning dics becuase "they won't work in my Mac".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2010
For those of you who have been listening to Springsteen for a decade or two--maybe even three--you've probably been listening primarily to Bruce with the E Street Band. They've made several excellent albums together, had numerous 'hit' records, toured mightily, too, gotten huge response everywhere. But beginning with his 'solo' album 'Nebraska', Bruce has grown and grown into a fine solo artist and shows his songwriting power and command of words and narrative definitively on this CD, which in my opinion is his finest overall. I love all the cuts, all the music, all the stories, beginning with the title cut, 'Devils and Dust'. Some of his very best and most intriguing songs/stories are on this CD, including 'The Hitter', 'Black Cowboys, 'Matamoros Banks','all I'm Thinkin' 'Bout Is You','Jesus Was an Only son','Maria's Bed' and 'Reno', the second cut on the album. No one can have the 'Best' of Bruce Springsteen WITHOUT having this CD in their collection. 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' pales beside 'Devils and Dust', although it may be more widely known. This is one of those CDs that I have in my changer and will listen to numerous times over a week, and it includes not only ballads but a few stripped-down acoustic rockers. Listen to this alongside 'The Rising', another great CD/album from Bruce. This is a great, 'classic' work from Bruce Springsteen. I was very surprised it wasn't nominated for a Grammy when it came out.