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Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll Hardcover – June 4, 2012
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“In an appreciative study that at times verges on the academic, Dolan traces Springsteen’s journey through a song-by-song and album-by-album development…” — Publishers Weekly
“ endeavors to get to the heart of its subject by viewing him through the economic, social, political, religious and family turmoil that formed a musician who found out early on how to make his guitar talk but spent painful decades refining what he needed to make it say. Springsteen’s creative evolution and endurance as a populist American rock ’n’ roll hero is, according to Dolan, "a slantwise way of telling the history of our times, how we have come together and divided over the last half-century, how we have changed what we think of ourselves as a people."” — Robin Finn (New York Times Book Review)
“Readable and engrossing.” — Booklist
“The definitive Springsteen biography/musical analysis, finely written and meticulously researched... by an academic who can write for a popular audience.... For fans, Dolan’s book is a necessary addition to the Springsteen library. For more casual listeners, who often wonder just what the fuss is all about, this volume is a good place to start.” — Michael Riley (Asbury Park Press)
“Dolan makes a point of telling more than just the Boss’ personal history, putting his putting his musical contributions in context with the country’s political state.” — radio.com
“Readable and engrossing.” — Booklist
About the Author
Marc Dolan is a professor at John Jay College and the City University of New York, where he teaches English, American studies, and film. A New Jersey native, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Top customer reviews
Marc Dolan's approach to Springsteen is much more scholarly than Carlin's work, which comes off a bit too friendly, less objective. Dolan approaches many of Springsteen's artistic decisions with more depth and less celebrity. He also does an excellent job of tying Springsteen's success to his connection with his fans. Springsteen is like few others in that his fan base is passionate AND educated. He can write lyrics that are entertaining while also having depth and a good story. Dolan spends considerable time making that connection about the fans and the body of work. If you want to read about Springsteen, there are many bios out there, Dolan's is just as good and even better, in some cases, than any of them. Highly recommended.
You have Springsteen's own "Songs", which peeks into his process and interpretations. The Dave Marsh books are the biographical bibles, so to speak, but seriously, he's a massive fan from the very beginnings of Springsteen's career. He's not, nor does he say he is, objective. There are others...
In fact, writing about Springsteen (like I sort of am here) or even listening to his music, cannot be objective.
This guy gets into the hearts and minds of people like few musical artists ever have.
Now, THIS book addresses his career using the albums as markers, not a bad way to go when reviewing a musician's career.
The emphasis is on the music, both studio recordings and tours. Clearly, this guy has heard a lot of bootlegs, but I was familiar with most of what he had to say just by listening to the formally released albums.
There wasn't a lot I didn't know (I'm a huge fan and a bit of a know-it-all)...but that didn't stop me from inhaling this book in a weekend, and enjoying every single minute.
In fact, the little things I learned...Billy Joel dedicating "The Entertainer" to Bruce at a concert in the 70's...kept me reading just to see what delightful nugget was to follow.
The reason I didn't pony up for a five-star rating is that I found the author's opinion intruded either too often, or too strongly, when discussing the music. Yes, we're fans, I get it. And like I said, I have no pretense about objectivity...but tonally...the flow of the book... suffered a few times because of it. The thin coverage of "Working On A Dream" felt more like it was secondary to the fact he didn't like the record, than to the fact that perhaps it overall was a critical and popular yawn. It's like he didn't want to say anything bad.
I loved the fact that he stated that the title song was "almost certainly the weakest title song of any Springsteen album"...I happen to agree with that opinion.
Also, the book ends with a tale about "Surprise Surprise", a song "many fans held in even lower esteem than 'The Angel'" and the author describes it as seeming "disposable, juvenile and almost meaningless."
Again, right on.
But these sort of books are supposed to present events of a career in context, and a few times along the way, almost as if he was skirting around a delicate issue, he doesn't.
Overall, though, this is a great read. I'm quibbling, because, well, I'm trying to be "objective". Honest.
And honestly, the majority of this book DOES put his career into context! It tells how the albums fit into his personal history, the current events of the period, and how they reflect back on musical influences both historic and modern popular tastes. The tours each get a few pages, but these feel like more of a tease than a tale.
Perhaps it's not Mr. Dolan's fault that maybe I simply wanted MORE.
That's a compliment.
There are other things that simply aren't his fault.
Springsteen has been putting out music like a man possessed as of late, and the book is woefully outdated on the day it was released.
New albums...like "Wrecking Ball", new tour...the treasure trove of music that was the recent "Darkness-The Promise" box set...I'm sure will be addressed in the paperback.
In fact, that will inevitably make this book better because there's already a terrific passage about the original "Wrecking Ball" song performance at Giants Stadium, and there's already LOTS of stuff on "The Promise" (the song) and the other songs that comprise 'The Promise' (the album) that will all come full circle now.
Hopefully THAT edition will then be out of date, because Bruce will have yet another album? Tracks 2? The River box set? Anyone? Is this mike on?
We can only hope.
And I think the author hopes so as well.
I have a new appreciation for "The River." I thought that album was inconsistent, but Dolan finds the consistency in it. He talks about the down time of the 1990s in a way I could understand.
The book was comprehensive yet conversational and easy to read and enjoy.
One of the best Springsteen books.