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Thread: Letter to You by Bruce Springsteen: A Memo From The Boss

  1. #1
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 52,367

    Letter to You by Bruce Springsteen: A Memo From The Boss


    Since the release of his 2012 LP, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteens creative output has mostly focused on sorting through and reframing his past. His 2014 collection, High Hopes, was filled with covers and older songs that were polished up and re-recorded. He issued an expanded version of 1980s The River in late 2015 and later performed the album on tour. His terrific autobiography, Born to Run, followed in 2016, and during the next two years he presented Springsteen on Broadway, the show about his life and music based on his book. Mr. Springsteens record from last year, Western Stars, a set of string-laden character sketches that evoked the orchestrated folk-pop of the early 70s, was an exception to this retrospective trend, but he wrote most of it in 2010, before his extended season of reflection.
    Letter to You (Columbia), Mr. Springsteens 20th studio LP, out Friday, puts a bow on this phase of his creative life. Its in part a concept album about the ability of music to give meaning to existencea favorite theme of hisand its also a meditation on times passing, how if you live long enough you get used to saying goodbye to the people around you.

    For such themes it makes sense that Mr. Springsteen would reconvene the E Street Band, who havent joined him for a full studio album since 2009s Working on a Dream. He wrote most of the songs last yearthough, intriguingly, three tunes date from the early 70sand all were recorded at Mr. Springsteens home studio in New Jersey over just a few days in November 2019. A film companion to the record by Thom Zimny, a frequent visual collaborator of Mr. Springsteens, documents the recording of the album in cozy black-and-white. It will be available Friday on Apple TV+. The result of these sessions is a comforting and often moving record tailored for Mr. Springsteens most loyal fans, reflecting an exchange between artist and audience that only long-term connection makes possible.

    The sonic character of Letter to You is quintessentially E Street, with Roy Bittans piano and glockenspiel providing the sparkle atop sturdy guitar work from Mr. Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren; Jake Clemons, nephew of longtime bandmember Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011, provides blasts of saxophone here and there.

    Three consecutive tracks in the middle of the record directly address music as a force for transformation. Last Man Standing was written following the death of a friend of Mr. Springsteen, a bandmate from his high-school rock n roll outfit, the Castiles. With his friends passing, Mr. Springsteen realized he was the only surviving member of the five-person group and uses the song to reminisce about their gigs and marvel at the fact that hes still making music all these years later. The Power of Prayer and House of a Thousand Guitars extend the backward-looking theme and connect to Mr. Springsteens earlier workfor example, Bells ring out through churches and jails in the latter echoes imagery from early classics Backstreets and Jungleland. These melodies are so elemental they can sometimes bleed together, but when the tunes are less memorable the conviction in Mr. Springsteens delivery and the chiming arrangements carry the weight.
    The reworking of previously unreleased songs is the most provocative choice here. Janey Needs a Shooter, If I Was the Priest and Song for Orphans were written just a few years after the Castiles split, in some cases before Mr. Springsteen had a recording deal. Each stretches past six minutes, reflecting his impressionistic word-drunk era, when he seemed desperate to squeeze in every thought. But the down-the-middle arrangements on Letter to You are consistent enough to absorb the shaggy originals into the new records more disciplined aesthetic. The gesture of including such early work is meaningful for those who have been following his story for years, even if the execution smooths out its defining idiosyncrasies.
    Hearing songs from Mr. Springsteens youth bumping up against new songs about his youth gives the album an alluring time-stretching flavor that seems designed to draw the faithful closer. During this late phase of his career, the individual listeners relationship to his previous work provides the context. So whats affecting to a devotee might seem clich or even self-parodic to someone who approaches his music with skepticism.
    The opening and closing tracks provide the perfect frame for the album, showing how death and loss are the flip-side of nostalgia, and they also illustrate just how fan-directed this record is. One Minute Youre Here, a haunted acoustic number delivered by Mr. Springsteen alone, points out that life can end in an instant, so every moment must be cherished. The lines Autumn carnival on the edge of town / We walk down the midway arm-in-arm conjure the wistful Jersey Shore setting that has served as a backdrop for Mr. Springsteens work from the beginning.

    The brilliant closer Ill See You in My Dreams, big-hearted and warmly optimistic, expresses earnest belief few artists other than Mr. Springsteen could pull off. It says that death is not the end, because memories remain, and its easy to draw lines between the song and the loss of E Street compatriots, namely Clemons and organist Danny Federici, who died in 2008. Mr. Springsteen, who is spry and healthy at 71 years old and probably has a lot of new music in front of him, has written a few dozen anthems that have dented the broader culture and will far outlive him. These more modest songs are likely to be remembered only by those whose relationship to Mr. Springsteens music feels more familial, which, given the records aims, seems just right.
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party Memorial -- June 5, 2023

  2. #2
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 52,367

    Re: Letter to You by Bruce Springsteen: A Memo From The Boss

    Watched the documentary last night and highly recommend watching it before listening to the tracks.
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party Memorial -- June 5, 2023

  3. #3
    cec1 is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Jul 2008 Posts: 6,080

    Re: Letter to You by Bruce Springsteen: A Memo From The Boss

    Who wrote the review? . . . so well done.

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