we shall overcome: the seeger sessions
bruce springsteen was the first ticket that i ever paid over $100 for. the year was 1985. the show was one of seven to be played at the sports arena here in los angeles.
i paid $115 to sit on the other end of the arena from the stage but not too far up. it was four hours long. i sang to every word. i went alone but i was there with 20,000 people who all felt the same way: the show was priceless; it was worth the LA traffic, it was worth the parking, it was worth the struggle to get tickets to see bruce springsteen at the peak of his popularity.
back in those days some critics compared him to dylan, some to elvis, some to u2. as u2 gets older they seem to be following along the same path as the boss – they seem to be showing their age too. and its unpretty.
this new collection of folk classics from the rich catalogue of pete seeger isnt as much of a tribute as it is an acknowledgement. not just that there are no more born to runs or rosalitas in our favorite rockstar from new jersey, but there arent any nebraskas left in him either.
its a new orleans death march. its a gleeful procession into the casket. its the last bloom of a wild flower determined to show one final sprout of color.
and ultimately its a testament that there is only one bob dylan, who has “traditional” albums before far better, and in a way where the songs become his. when dylan released Froggie Went A Courtin’ on 1992’s “good as ive been to you” he owned it. when bruce does it here, he fumbles, which is tough since the production is so clean and sterile.
the difference is theres no soul in the latest springsteen offerrings. you can say what you want about him marrying patty scalfia, but when he did he jumped the shark. his life might have been better but his music was forgetable, flat, and flimsy. the twinkle left his eye, the muscle left the melodies, the sweat was gone from the songs.
brass bands play and pianos tinkle on this collection but it may as well have been made by robots as theres no heart or majesty. theres no risk or reward. the devil is in the details and theres no sin therefore theres no salvation.
so why the picture of madonna? because she has taught us all how to age. shes taught us all how to keep pushing the envelope as we get older and squeeze out kids. shes taught us how to keep risking cuz she never stopped.
madonna will be in indio this weekend with the hipsters, and bruce will be in palm desert with the other old people who enjoy stale safe folkpopblues.
what mr bruce springsteen needs to do if he wants to make emotional music again is remember what it was like to write those first three records he made. he needs to remember what it was like to write those second three records. and if he cant remember he needs to quit using musicians that smell good, he needs to stop using producers who drive imports, he needs to stop playing guitars that sound right, if he wants to make a blues record or a folk record he needs to drink and get punched in the gut a few times, hard.
and he needs to stop singing like the goateed springsteen and recapture what it was to sing like the scrawny bearded hungry springsteen. or at least grasp why johnny cash could sing a nine inch nails tune in a way that would make you cry.
if the boss was smart he’d record his next album in a basement or a nut house or a haunted hotel or in the projects with the brothas whove never heard of him and dont give a shit if they did. and he needs to do some real songs like hank sr, robert johnson, morrissey, dylan, and billie. and he needs to be pissed off the entire time. tom waits could produce, but i recommend george bush. of course i’ll executive produce which will entail holding two signs. one that says sucks the other that says really sucks.
good non-dance records sound like they were recorded at night. this one was obviously recorded in sweden at noon. it’s plastic. its a pretty girl with makeup and hairspray and liposuction. we wanted a real woman with scars and scrapes and chipped nail polish with a dozen stories to tell as she smoked 100s and sipped out of a dirty glass.
when the pogues kick your ass at “jesse james” it proves that you live in a bubble that needs to be popped.
on the busblog scale of one to four stars this one gets one star. a pity star. for this is the record i would play for someone if i wanted to get them pissed off.