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Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Jul 16th, 2019

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars

Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars
(Columbia)

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The Boss’ first album of all-new material in seven years, Western Stars is an acoustic-by-way-of-orchestra concept. Certainly, this 13-song mini-opus is cinematic, but the slightly over-used strings and horns, and Springsteen not always so sure when to end a tune lands this album lower than its potential height.

Early tunes like the single “Tucson Train,” and the title track seem to be more about “Bruuuce” wallowing in the orchestra than having lots to say. But then, as things open up into the second half of this collection, that masterful storytelling we expect from Springsteen does show itself.

“(Drive Fast) The Stuntman,” featuring old Springsteen piano-tickler David Sancious, is a perfect Springsteen story song. “Sundown” might just be the best realization of the strings and horn interplay, featuring the strongest melody of all. “Stones” is a new true Springsteen classic, with Sancious setting the pace and violinist Soozie Tyrell ending in a perfect coda. This near 5-minute ode is gooseflesh-inducing to be sure.

The last three: “There Goes My Miracle,” a Glen Campbell-sound-alike called “Hello Sunshine,” and “Moonlight Motel,” again represent some great mixing of Bruce, band, and orchestra. In the choruses of “There Goes My Miracle,” Springsteen sings in a way I have never heard him do. Challenging his decidedly never-have-been-dulcet pipes certainly is something I never expected, but it bodes well for a superstar of Springsteen’s stature.

Half of Western Stars misses the mark in my opinion with too much production, the other is just right, in fact, at times it’s brilliant.

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Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars