It was a huge week for rockers of a certain age.  New releases were on offer from the following folks, to the extent the target demographic can find anywhere to buy the CDs:

John Fogerty, Bob Dylan (a compilation), Mick Jagger (a compilation), Mark Knopfler and offerings from the distaff side via Annie Lennox and Joni Mitchell.  Starbucks will be making a full court press on behalf of the lady from Canada.  But the sweep of the week’s new releases from veteran artists was certainly driven by the return to form of Sprinsgteen and his venerable E Street Band.

With Brendan O’Brien at the producer’s helm, the Boss touches on various elements of his prior oeuvre. The lead track and initial single “Radio Nowhere” is a plea for direction in the midst of media confusion:

I was trying to find my way home
But all I heard was a drone
Bouncing off a satellite
Crushing the last lone American night
This is Radio Nowhere
Is there anybody alive out there
This is Radio Nowhere
Is there anybody alive out there
I was sitting around a dead dial
Just another lost number in a file

Springsteen is clearly echoing the sentiments of his core constituency: Where is the music today?  Is it all in a digital file?  How do I find it? It reminds one of what Elvis Costello was lamenting decades ago, when he was bemoaning the voice of reason in “Radio Radio.”

The next two tracks result in a powerful 1-2-3 punch, especially when Clarence Clemons pours out his Big Man sax during the bridge of “Livin’ In the Future.”

It is open to conjecture who was most responsible for mixing the album’s songs to a gritty, AM radio sonic quality.  It might have been the unique (to Springsteen) recording location of Atlanta.  Many would point to producer O’Brien, but my vote goes to Little Miami Steve Van Zandt.  In between stints helping Tony Soprano, the guitarist has been single-handedly wrestling garage rock back into the public’s eyes.  His re-engagement with the E Street Band is a fine development for all concerned.

The one song that is the exception to the grittiness is the crystalline “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” in which Springsteen channels Phil Spector.  The song has some of the most straightforward lyrics on the album.  Most of the remaining songs reveal a more oblique Boss, tangentially revisiting some of his early Catholicism.  (Note the medals pictured around his neck in the sleeve art).  “Your Own Worst Enemy” would not be out of place on a latter Tom Waits album.

The musicianship is predictably tight, and folks are gearing up for another thrilling tour.  Sadly lost in the spotlight is Patti Scialfa’s third solo release (Play It As It Lays) which came out a few weeks earlier.  With subtly effective contributions from hubby Bruce, Patti reaches back to her pre-Boss work with the likes of Keith Richards and Southside Johnny for a satisfying collection.

Springsteen moved his LA gig(s) on 10/29 and 10/30 from the Staples Center to the well-worn Sports Arena, which he has done at least once before.  The aesthetics are far more appropriate.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.