Monday, August 05, 2002

Bruce Springsteen - The Rising

The Boss has returned with his first new studio release since 1995's The Ghost Of Tom Joad. Possibly more important is that this is his first new album with The E Street Band since 1987. What does Bruce Springsteen, one of America's true song writing talents, have to offer the new millennium?

Springsteen couldn't open this 15-track album better than with the magical "Lonesome Day." Songs like "Waiting On A Sunny Day," "Let's Be Friends (Skin To Skin)" and "Mary's Place" are the uplifting fun songs that make you feel good to be breathing. It's great to have songs like those to break an emotional roller coaster spiking with a dagger-sharp emotional song like "You're Missing." "Further On (Up The Road)" is the dark gritty no-nonsense rocker that you knew Bruce had in him. "Counting On A Miracle" wraps you up a rocking love song disguised in fairy tale imagery. "Paradise" is exactly as it's titled yet soft, sultry, sexy and touched by sadness. You never get a sense of overproduction even with the abrupt change when you hit the stand-out track "Worlds Apart." The world music feel is something you don't expect and you have to wonder if Peter Gabriel slipped this song to Springsteen (kept checking the credits for Youssou N'Dour.)

This album was a great surprise. Upon listening, you can't predict anything to come. The song writing is crisp storytelling that grabs and holds you fixed. You can almost forget there the whole E Street Band in the mix until repeated listenings. The only thing rising here is Bruce Springsteen's career... again.

Def Leppard - X

Def Leppard have clawed their way back up from what many may call commercial missteps and (following up the success of 1999's Euphoria album) they now release their tenth studio album, aptly titled, X. Oddly enough, this is their first studio release with more than one producer.

With a mix of producers, you'd obviously hear some style differences. One example is "Gravity" which makes use of some slight electronic touches with a near rap-paced chorus. The beautifully crafted first single "Now" contains guitar-work that goes from beautiful harmonics to aggressive near-Metallica moments without losing a step. Joe Elliot shows he still has amazing pipes as the band rips through the catchy "Torn To Shreds." "Scar" is a bittersweet gem with scorching solos. The haunting acoustic ballad "Long Long Way To Go" is a hit just waiting to happen (it is rumored to be the second single). The energetic rocking "Cry" is good reminder of where the band has come from while "Four Letter Word" has a ballsy strut to it (even though I think I missed what the word was somehow.)

X is a triumph. This will go down as a classic Def Leppard album right next to Pyromania and Hysteria. The only negative thing that I could say about it is that X is heavy on emotional content but that's not entirely bad either. The trademark band vocal harmony isn't lost here and helps hold things together well. I will go out on a limb and say this is the best album I've heard this year.