Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Magic [Vinyl]
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on October 12, 2007
Intro Note: My original review of MAGIC has generated a lot of votes, but also a lot of negative backlash, so I thought I would elaborate on a few things before we get to the review proper. First, I am posting a revised version of the review. The original is still listed on Amazon.co.uk. Now onward.

When I wrote this review back in early October, I made it quite clear that, although I like Springsteen's music, I haven't taken the time to go through his discography like I have with other musicians. My original review was written from a point of view of a middle-of-the-road Springsteen fan. Although Springsteen obviously has a very strong, devoted fanbase, I think my status as a good, but not hardcore, fan represents a good proportion of potential listeners for this album, and so is a valid or helpful review.

I freely confessed I hadn't listen to all of his albums, though I have a passing familiarity with most of them. People really took me to task for not having heard TUNNEL OF LOVE, which is USA's followup, even though I made it clear I haven't listened to Springsteen as extensively as I have other musicians due to time and money. Yes, you an be a fan of Springsteen and not have heard TUNNEL. I'm a Tom Waits fan and there's a lot of his albums I haven't heard all the way through.

Since I posted the review, I have taken the time to listen to TUNNEL, and have even wrote a review of it for Amazon. It's quite good, and it's a perfect bridge between USA and MAGIC. I consider it his pop trilogy, much like NEBRASKA, TOM JOAD, and DEVILS & DUST is his acoustic/folk trilogy.

Though I've been accused of "not being a fan" because I hadn't heard TUNNEL, listening to it really didn't radically change my position on MAGIC. It only slightly modified it.

All major artists have various populations in their fanbases. I count myself hardcore when it comes to Bob Dylan (see my review for the new DYLAN compilation for further elaboration). With Springsteen, I've always liked his music. But just remember one thing. Each album services the various populations in different ways, and I was writing from a different perspective than those who have followed Bruce for years and have all his records memorized and been to lots of his shows. But it doesn't mean I'm not a fan, or that Bruce's music doesn't move me.

Because it does.
Mike London, November 16, 2007
--------------
Revised Review

I must confess, ever since I learned about MAGIC, Springsteen's newest, I was pretty excited. Though I haven't gotten into Springsteen the same extent I've gotten into some other rock giants (the biggest being Bob Dylan), I proudly count myself
among his fans, though not, perhaps, a card carrying member of the Asbury Fan Club (or Cult perhaps would be a better term).

I also have another confession. I've been listening to this album incessantly for the past month, since early September from the version leaked on the internet. Now, if history repeats itself like Radiohead with KID A back in 2000, this prerelease leak should drive sells. I know it made me want to buy it. I can't stop listening to it. We haven't heard Bruce do a real pop album like this for years, and it's great to hear him do a new record in vein of TUNNEL and USA.

Of course, a big reason for the great sound is Springsteen is back with the E Streeet Band. Springsteen would not use the E Street Band on an album for a full eighteen years following USA. They finally resurfaced on the 2002 effort THE RISING. And while THE RISING is certainly a fine record, it was largely preoccupied with the post 9/11 universe we as the international community have been thrust into.

While Springsteen has been active releasing albums since then, he didn't use the band, and the albums he did release were either folk or bluegrass driven. Which is not to say they're bad albums. DEVILS & DUST is great, especially the title cut. SEEGER SESSIONS is an interesting, and very fun, history lesson about Pete Seeger, even if he did ax the sound equipment at Dylan's Newport appearance in 1965. But those looking for Springsteen's rock sound will be disappointed by them.

But not now. MAGIC is the album we've been waiting for for a long time. While there are some quite serious moments, overall Springsteen just lets his hair down and doing some great pop rock and roll in a way that only he can.

Without a doubt, MAGIC is one of Springsteen's funnest albums in the last twenty five years. In fact, I would argue that MAGIC is closest to that seminal 1984 masterpiece and TUNNEL OF LOVE out of all of Springsteen's previous albums. MAGIC feels very much akin to those two towering records.

To me, these three albums are Springsteen's harrowing forays into pop music, and sound very much like a pop-trilogy.

BORN IN THE USA is a strange animal. Musically, it's upbeat, it's poppy, it's just fun to listen too. BORN IN THE USA, though very pop-driven, had a dark pessimism underbelly that has always been a constant in Springsteen's early records. Lyrically, however, the album featured the characters in the songs following the same dark, desperate fate that most of Springsteen's narrators did on DARKNESS, THE RIVER, NEBRASKA, etc. USA dressed up Springsteen's bitter stories about his down-on-their-luck characters in such brilliantly poppy music that the Reagan administration famously used the title cut in their bid for reelection. The political publicist machine can be pretty damned oblivious at times.

TUNNEL OF LOVE examines marriage, love, and the failures of commitment in a heart-breaking way. TUNNEL lacks the strange dichotomy so apparent with USA between lyrical outlook (USA's lyrics are more akin to singer-songwriter and blues than pop) and actual music. But TUNNEL is a much different record than either lyrically, and is a rather devastating and insightful analysis of relationships between the sexes.

MAGIC, on the other hand, is just fun, but, like USA, can be rather deceiving if you listen only to the music and don't pay that much attention to the lyrics. There's a wistful nostalgia here that we haven't seen from Springsteen before, a remembrance of things past. There's anger here too ("Radio Nowhere", a diatribe against the radio landscape of the new millennium, "Last to Die", a politically charged rocker, and the title track, a song that can unfortunately apply to several different government administrations).

Springsteen makes some serious statements on MAGIC, but he still manages to make the whole affair quite fun, and there are a few numbers here that sound like Springsteen playing rock and roll and pop music just for the hell of it. All the songs sound like they belong together, with the sole exception of the hidden track "Terry's Song", a tribute to one of his friends who died. While a pleasant enough song, doesn't really do a lot for me. While there are some dark undercurrents on MAGIC, the sound itself is rather glorious. Especially given how long we haven't really got to hear something like this from Bruce.

Another thing that should be mentioned is the way in which Brendan O'Brien, the album's producer (also affiliated with Pearl Jam, Neil Young, and any number of major rock acts), and Springsteen's chose to record it. Working around the band's busy schedule, they would record their own parts solo with O'Brien producing, and then O'Brien would assemble all the different tracks into a finished song. The sole exception to this recording process was the Big Man, Clarence Clemmons, the E Street Band's famous saxophonist. Springsteen personally oversaw all of Clemmons' sessions, due to the rich dynamic relationship they have with one another.

While this protools method of recording albums can sap modern music of their vitality, it's amazing how organic and lived in the music feels. Of course, this is Springsteen, and this is the E Street band, so they obviously know how to make great music. What a backing band they truly are.

Like most of Springsteen's music, none of this is disposable music. The best pop never is.

Ultimately, MAGIC is probably the best album for 2007. For those Springsteen fans who didn't much care for DEVILS & DUST and SEEGER SESSIONS, rejoice! We have Springsteen making some phenomenal rock and roll at long last!
--------------
Original Review: Bruce Springsteen - Magic October 10, 2007

I must confess, ever since I learned about MAGIC, Springsteen's newest, I was pretty excited. Though I haven't gotten into Springsteen the same extent I've gotten into some other rock giants (the biggest being Bob Dylan), I proudly count myself among his fans, though not, perhaps, a card carrying member of the Asbury Fan Club (or Cult perhaps would be a better term).

I also have another confession. I've been listening to this album incessantly for the past month, since early September from the version leaked on the internet. Now, if history repeats itself like Radiohead with KID A back in 2000, this prerelease leak should drive sells. I know it made me want to buy it. I can't stop listening to it.

Without a doubt, MAGIC is one of Springsteen's funnest albums in the last twenty five years, and his flat out best pop album since BORN IN THE USA. In fact, I would argue that MAGIC is closest akin to that seminal 1984 masterpiece out of all of Springsteen's previous albums.

Though I haven't heard TUNNEL OF LOVE, USA's chronological followup, for my money MAGIC sounds like the true sequel. Springsteen would not use the E Street Band on an album for a full eighteen years following USA. They finally resurfaced on the 2002 effort THE RISING. And while THE RISING is certainly a fine record, it was largely preoccupied with the post 9/11 universe we as the international community have been thrust into.

While Springsteen has been active releasing albums since then, he didn't use the band, and the albums he did release were either folk or bluegrass driven. Which is not to say they're bad albums. DEVILS & DUST is great, especially the title cut. SEEGER SESSIONS is an interesting, and very fun, history lesson about Pete Seeger, even if he did ax the sound equipment at Dylan's Newport appearance in 1965. But those looking for Springsteen's rock sound will be disappointed by them.

But not now. MAGIC is the album we've been waiting for for a long time. While there are some serious moments ("Radio Nowhere", a diatribe against the radio landscape of the new millennium, "Last to Die", the only real politically charged song on the entire album), overall MAGIC is a celebration of life, of freedom, of Springsteen just letting his hair down and doing some great pop rock and roll.

BORN IN THE USA is a strange animal. Musically, it's upbeat, it's poppy, it's just fun to listen too. Lyrically, however, the album featured the characters in the songs following the same dark, desperate fate that most of Springsteen's narrators did on DARKNESS, THE RIVER, NEBRASKA, etc. USA dressed up Springsteen's bitter stories about his down-on-their-luck characters in such brilliantly poppy music that the Reagan administration famously used the title cut in their bid for reelection. The political publicist machine can be pretty damned oblivious at times.

MAGIC, on the other hand, has USA's same pop rock sensibilities, but minus the overarching pessimism. While there are some nostalgic moments on the album, overall, MAGIC is the truest sequel to BORN IN THE USA that we have yet seen, and is in many ways unique to Springsteen's canon. Originally THE RIVER was to be a single album of lighthearted songs called THE TIES THAT BIND. Twenty Seven years later we get that album, a pop album where Springsteen's not trying to make an overarching statement. And what a great rock album it is.

This is Springsteen's purest pop album, and its sense of fun and lack of serious, grandiose statements is what THE RIVER would have been had Springsteen stuck with his original plans. It's good to make good music just for the hell of it, but don't get me wrong. None of this is disposable music (the best pop never is). All the songs sound like they belong together, with the sole exception of the hidden track "Terry's Song", a tribute to one of his friends who died. While a pleasant enough song, doesn't really do a lot for me.

Another thing that should be mentioned is the way in which Brendan O'Brien, the album's producer (also affiliated with Pearl Jam, Neil Young, and any number of major rock acts), and Springsteens chose to record it. Working around the band's busy schedule, they would record their own parts solo with O'Brien producing, and then O'Brien would assemble all the different tracks into a finished song. The sole exception to this recording process was the Big Man, Clarence Clemmons, the E Street Band's famous saxophonist. Springsteen personally oversaw all of Clemmons' sessions, due to the rich dynamic relationship they have with one another.

While this protools method of recording albums can sap modern music of their vitality, it's amazing how organic and lived in the music feels. Of course, this is Springsteen, and this is the E Street band, so they obviously know how to make great music. What a backing band they truly are.

Ultimately, MAGIC is probably the best album for 2007. This is USA minus the pessimism. For those Springsteen fans who didn't much care for DEVILS & DUST and SEEGER SESSIONS, rejoice! We have Springsteen making some phenomenal rock and roll at long last!
1818 comments|287 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon October 4, 2007
I've bought every Bruce Springsteen album since Darkness the first day it was released so I'm not a newcomer to Bruce. This is a great collection of songs. Bruce says so much here musically and lyrically, but I have to agree with so many other people that the production is terrible. In listening to this cd a few times in my car I actually considered whether I needed better speakers; until I put in another cd which sounded perfectly fine. I listened to the album online last week through my cheap PC speakers. I loved it and was looking forward to listening to it in high fidelity. Apparently this will never happen unless a remastered version of this comes out many years from now. I find that this cd can not be turned way up without horrible distortion and it is actually tiring to listen to this for long periods of time. Great - a Springsteen cd that I can't crank up and listen to repeatedly. Contrast The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle (which was released a mere 34 years ago) with Magic and you'll find you're now waist deep in the Big Muddy.
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on October 4, 2007
I need to play this quite a few more times to judge the songs. On first listen, I've found some of the arrangements interesting, some songs catchy and some lyrics interesting. Overall OK given that I'm not a huge Bruuuuuuce fan. Eventually, I'd likely give it a 3 or perhaps 4 star rating based on content.

But.... The production and engineering of this CD is inexcusable. The sound is very compressed - WHY? It is also very muddy, often hard to discern the lyrics through the fog of sound. It's 2007; O'Brien should be embarrassed at a production this unlistenable - for a major artist no less, who should have access to the best facilities and technicians.

My Vandersteen speakers swallowed this CD up. Even the normally expansive Vandys couldn't overcome the compression of this recording.

Springsteen should insist that this be remastered or rerecorded; unbought copies of this be recalled; anyone who bought it be sent the remastered version if they send in proof-of-purchase.

How the label, artist, producer or engineer let this travesty see the light of day is inexplicable. It is 2007 isn't it?
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on October 5, 2007
Dear Mr. Bruce Springsteen,

Although this release is full of great material please remaster this album. The sound quality appears as if something produced during the 50's. The "wall of sound" without any separation is just exhausting after a while. I'm sure you and the E Street Band can't be pleased.

Sincerely,
A dedicated fan
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on October 11, 2007
I couldn't agree more with the last couple of reviews. When I listened to this cd the first time in my car I had to play it at home right away because I wasn't sure if it was my lousy car speakers or the music itself. From a sheer sound quality, the word muddy is a perfect fit, and from a musical quality, it seems really forced, both in lyrics and instrumentally. Many times too, it seems like they all thought they needed to be playing at the same time, which again, gave the overall sound a muddy quality. I am a huge Bruce fan and am very disappointed in this release. Do yourself a favor and listed to someone elses disc before you go spend your hard earned money on it.
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on October 3, 2007
I'm a lifelong fan of Bruce and was really looking forward to this new rock offering. Some of the early buzz suggested a "return to form". I wish I hadn't bothered! With the exception of a couple of outstanding tracks, the rest of the album sounds awful with terrible production. Brendan O'Brien's wall of sound just doesn't cut it. I expected a much more raw and gritty sound to go with the songwriting. The first four or five tracks all seem to sound the same. It's like hearing the band playing through a wall. It gets a little better after that, but again the over-produced sound makes the listening experience rather disappointing. Can't wait for the remastered release of Darkness on the Edge of Town!
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on October 18, 2007
I love the new songs, so I'm not going to spend time going over them one by one. My beef is with the production of the CD.

How is it possible for EVERY instrument to be playing at exactly the same level throughout every song, throughout the entire CD? The music is SO compressed that at times I can barely hear the vocals. There's an organ in there somewhere- I thought I heard it. Guitar solos... I hear something, but I can't make out the riff. Sax, snare, bass-- all sounding as if they're being played through a funnell. Was this mixed for AM Radio??

I know there has been chatter about CD's being issued too hot, too loud, but this is ridiculous. And I don't care if it's Springsteen's "signature" sound - this CD goes over the line. As great as the songs are, its painful to listen to them. How bout a 5.1 mix to open it up? It would be great to hear the drums and bass and organ and guitar and vocals--- instead of just drumsbassorganguitarvocals !
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on October 3, 2007
I was anxiously awaiting this CD. I think that Bruce is one of the greatest songsmiths in the business today. But, this (IMHO) has to be one of the muddiest sounding albums in recent memory. I can't understand the vocals (sure I could read the libretto however that's somewhat difficult while driving) and the instruments of this phenomenal group of seasoned musicians are indistinctly mashed together. It's almost unlistenable and somewhat frustrating as I ask myself why anyone who can certainly afford the best would put this out as is. My disappointment is not with the content but with the presentation that clouds what should be an exciting release.
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on October 9, 2007
I love the music but because the sound quality is so bad I will never listen to again. I thought that Rush's Snakes & Arrows was the worst sounding cd of 2007 but it has been surpassed by this recording. In a time when people are buying fewer and fewer CD's, I think the artist and the record company owes it to us, the buyers of the WHOLE cd, not just the GOOD tracks, to have the good sense to make them sound as good as they can. If you not sure of my golden ears, just listen back to back two cds that were release on the same day, Bruce Springsteen Magic and John Fogerty Revival. If you want to know what a cd should sound like buy the John Fogerty cd!
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on October 2, 2007
Great lyrics and song writing with the usual powerful "E" Street production. However, my opinion of the studio mixing is between bad and poor. "Magic" would have been three times what it is with normal mixing. Sounds like the studio mixer had his equipment set up in the basement. Almost can't listen to it.
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