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Customer Review

287 of 334 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Springsteen's spiritual successor to BORN IN THE USA; best album of 2007, October 12, 2007
This review is from: Magic (Audio CD)
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!
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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 13, 2007 5:38:29 PM PDT
Frank Cohen says:
I find your credibility somewhat diminished by the fact that you have never listened to "Tunnel of Love." I find that absolutely astonishing given the significance you are claiming MAGIC has in Springsteen's catalog and that it's the album "we have been waiting for a long time." If you were so eager, then why haven't you given TUNNEL a listen? Surely, it would have helped satisfy your supposed hunger for "new" Springsteen. Also, I'm completely dumbfounded by this fondness for Brendan O'Brien who I think has treated this album of music atrociously. It is all so crammed together that it is very difficult to hear the distinct sounds of anyone in the band and, most importantly, it is difficult to hear Bruce's voice.

Posted on Oct 21, 2007 11:55:16 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 21, 2007 11:56:05 AM PDT]

Posted on Oct 24, 2007 2:35:15 PM PDT
If you get to read the lyrics, this album is very dark and very passionate in its message about Bruce's anger with what sort of America our country has become. Read some of the interviews, like the one he did with 60 Minutes to get a place to truly understand what he did with the lyrics for this album.

Posted on Oct 27, 2007 7:15:53 PM PDT
HagFan says:
Mike, it's great to hear that you love this album. Unlike you, I am a 37 year Bruce-tramp. I always take what Bruce and The E Street Band give me(I even loved The Seeger Sessions Band releases - what a band!). I have to tell you. I'm like you. I can't stop listening to this album. The lyrics, the rythum, everything just grows ans grows on you. Seeing that Magic is back at No. 1 on Billboard's chart is great to see, but if radio(Is there anybody out there alive?) would play some of this stuff Magic would sell so many more copies. It's just unfair. But, you know what? Bruce doesn't care. Really. All he cares about is if his fan base is happy. And, for the most part I think they are. I'd bet that alot of the Bruce fans who trashed the album after first listening are hearing it in a whole differnt way by now. Thanks, man.

Posted on Nov 12, 2007 7:31:36 AM PST
RLB says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 15, 2007 3:39:40 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Sep 15, 2008 9:09:47 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2007 7:54:26 PM PST
Chazzyb says:
Hey. Don't Listen to what other people say. I Like You're Review and I Agree with it. It's really good, and you're entitled to you're own opinion. GOOD REVIEW. I've only heard "Born In The USA", "Rising", "Born To Run" and "Magic", and I'm still a fan. It Doesn't Matter what other people say.

Posted on Dec 21, 2007 2:30:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2008 9:37:01 AM PST
Ray Wilson says:
Well, I appreciate, MAC, that you did your homework and tried to return with a more informed opinion. Unfortunately I have to question much of your conclusions. If Springsteen had a "pop trilogy" it certainly would not include Tunnel of Love. Born in the USA, ok. The River would be a decent second choice. Third...not a clue. Tracks, maybe -- something that was never designed, of course as an album. Anyway, back to ToL -- even your own comments say nothing to support the idea that this was a poppy album -- unless there's something way fun in "examines marriage, love, and the failures of commitment in a heart-breaking way" and "devastating and insightful analysis " that I am overlooking. Tunnel of Love, in fact, was that album that brought Bruce back from the disappointment that was Born in the USA to many of his fans at the time. ToL is a collection of insightful, mature songs, with nothing "fun" about them -- except to the extent that outstanding music is always fun. And it basically set the tone for most of his work since. Bruce doesn't do a lot of BIG songs anymore. With or without the E Street Band, Bruce's songs of the last couple decades are small, personal, adult portraits. Most of the songs on Magic fall into that mode, as well. It's an excellent album, but "fun" and "poppy" fall way down on the list of adjectives that I would choose.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2007 8:10:38 AM PST
Riley says:
Frank:

You forgot all about the freedom of speech, didn't you? I fully have the right to listen to one Springsteen song and be a fan. Hey, I can even write a review of it and call it good. Lay off Mike London.

Posted on Jan 11, 2008 5:04:24 PM PST
Seeger never axed dylan's sound equipment as you say.
It's just a rumor that he wanted to ax it, and that he had to be held back.
If you watch the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home about Dylan there are interviews with several people who were at the Newport festival none saying that he axed the equipment. Seeger himself says that he only said that because the sound was terrible.
just thought I'd correct you on this.
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