STILL THE BOSS

STILL THE BOSS

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With the holidays now lapsed, many of us are left with plenty of gifts we’d rather trade in for something…better.  As such, herein lies a tale that shall hopefully ring as suggestive for one exchange to make that you won’t regret. 

Now, when most people purchase CD’s, they do so because they like the artist, already know that the album is amazing, or have heard a particular song on the record that whet their whistle.  But what attracted me to the latest Bruce Springsteen album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions was its containing a version of a song that I remember from my prepubescent days, “Froggie Went A-Courtin',” which was my first musical memory—drudged up from the cartoon series of Tom and Jerry (episode “Pecos Pest,” to be needlessly exact). 

When I greedily unwrapped the CD and took a look at the cover—that shows Bruce with a gaggle of musicians brandishing banjos, accordions, basses, and a fiddle or two—I knew that this was going to be an interesting jaunt into some good old fashioned bluegrass/folk/rock in classic Springsteen style.  He has always been into big productions—from “Born in the USA” to “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”  Halfway through his Unplugged performance, he stated that he was not going to perform acoustic and called out his band to plug-in.  Bruce possesses an inviolable penchant for having a huge chorus of musicians filling out his trademark sound.

This particular record is an amazing collection of non-Springsteen written, non-rock songs that the Boss has lovingly molded—along with his 12-man jam band—into an 18-song (try to find the American Land Edition that comes crammed with extra tracks) journey through America: its joys, struggles, and triumphs.  Songs such as “Old Dan Tucker,” “Pay Me My Money Down,” and (of course) “Froggie Went a Courtin’” take us back to a time when music told stories that captivated our hearts and minds…a time when music truly stuck with us.  Nowadays, songs that tell stories are apocryphal sensational anecdotes usually about how the troubadour got rich by killing someone, selling drugs, or some kind of nouveau love triangle.  Yawwwwn.

ImageThe most impressive aspect of this CD is that Bruce and his cohorts recorded the entire 60-plus minute set live in Springsteen’s home.  The consequence of this bold and minimalist recording style is that the CD is laden with such a truly “Live” feeling that you can’t help but tap your toes…and even slap your knee to the amazing tunes.  This album is a beautiful tribute to some classic American songs, and most notably those by Pete Seeger, who has his place in the title, as well as a special place in Springsteen’s heart.  Each song is well thought out and perfectly attuned to Springsteen’s grass-roots rock and roll style, while maintaining the integrity of the original composition. 

More than half of a million albums have been sold of Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions since its late Spring ’06 release, however I don’t really believe that a good portion of these have been sold to, or heard by, the amassed youth of the country—and that’s a great shame. I believe profoundly that young people today really need a man such as Bruce Springsteen to lift their spirits.  Far too many bands today sing such negative songs that contemporary kids are presented with little that’s not violent or repulsive.  And I’m deeply sorry to say this, but Connor Oberst is no substitute.

With We Shall Overome, Springsteen has made an all-encompassing album that travels through centuries of American struggles and achievements.  So what I’m trying to say here, parents: Force your kids into listening.
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Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company’s Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA’s more “colorful” characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.

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