Thursday, November 5, 2020

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You

Bruce Springsteen
Letter to You
*** out of *****

The newest release from Bruce Springsteen is his first re-connection with the powerfully supportive E Street Band since 2014's Hugh Hopes. That release was a hodgepodge collection highlighted by re-imagined older songs and Letter To You continues that vibe but on stronger footing as there is also a very familiar power flowing through these mostly dour lyrical tracks that discuss aging, death, spirituality, memories and  legacy. 

The brief opening, acoustically vulnerable, "One Minute You're Here" discusses mortality and fear, but also pulls in a bit of Bruce's recent Western Stars over saturation of strings and swelling orchestration, but the honest lyrics win the day setting the tone for the album to to follow. 

A late career full E-Street backed title track follows with gospel influenced rock and roll that Springsteen has been working with since The Rising (possibly longer) while "Burnin' Train" continues the run of good tunes and memories, reminiscent of a mature "Candy's Room" with shaking percussion and sizzling guitar work.   

One of the themes on Letter To You is Springsteen revisiting older songs he wrote before his debut and giving them proper recordings with his powerfully aged band. "Janey Needs A Shooter" is the first and best of these as the version here is cackling classic Springsteen of The River era, fitting both for that record and this one, overblown in all the Bosses best ways. While Warren Zevon borrowed that songs title and wrote his own tune, Zevon's spirit is more prevalent on another old tune the confusing moral play of "If I Was A Priest" which unfortunately fades out with prominent harmonica work during a cool jam.  

"Songs For Orphans" is the other pre-fame song and it is easy to see why it was skipped as the song clearly recalls Bob Dylan and "My Back Pages" in particular. With all of the early career comparisons already out there it was probably smart this one was shelved. A few of the new original tunes are less than stellar efforts including the dragging "House Of A Thousand Guitars" and "Rainmaker" which is slightly better but goes nowhere special. "The Power of Prayer" is one of the odder tunes in Bruce's catalog as the straight ahead Christian rock takes Springsteen and E-Street's gospel rave up style and boils it down to a dull, rote, cliche filled snoozer. 

The heart felt finale "I'll See You In My Dreams" along with efforts like the "On Broadway" inspired "Last Man Standing" and particularly the ode to fallen band mates "Ghosts" prove that Springsteen and E-Street are still delivering the powerful goods.  Letter To You is in line with his post 2000 releases; respectable, honest, over the top,  a few skippable songs, kinda corny and human, or in other words, a late career Bruce Springsteen album.    
Bruce was in our Masters Series, support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

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