During his recent solo tour, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt spoke about the “horrifying mediocrity” of today’s music, but said an artist had “to keep going for greatness.” Thirty-five years after his blockbuster Born In The U.S.A. and closing in on 70, Bruce Springsteen is still striving for – and delivering – greatness.
Western Stars, his 19th studio album, is the story of dark desert highways, of drifters and dreamers. “Catch me now,” declares the protagonist in opening cut, Hitch Hikin’, “because tomorrow I’ll be gone.”
Springsteen’s epic tales haven’t sounded this intimate since Nebraska. His characters remain restless and uncertain, captive “to that voice that keeps me awake at night.” The title track reminds of Springsteen’s soundtrack gem The Wrestler, but now he’s telling the tale of an ageing actor who’s busy reliving his glory days.
Vocally, Springsteen has rarely sounded better. When he made Born To Run, he said he wanted to sing like Roy Orbison, and you can imagine Orbison crooning the majestic There Goes My Miracle. Elsewhere, there are echoes of Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach, but Springsteen has also crafted a record that’s all his own. He remains rock’s greatest storyteller.
Western Stars by Bruce Springsteen is out now (on various formats including Australian exclusive clear with white/blue smokey swirl vinyl, pictured) via Sony.
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