Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Bad Decision?

Photo by John Lund

Well last Monday saw the official release of a new track from Wrecking Ball...  and the unofficial release of the whole album.  If you read last week's post you will know I made a decision not to listen to any more tracks until I had the CD.

There are one or two people who are doing the same but most have decided to listen.  It has sparked much debate.

Those who have chosen to listen can be very persuasive. Their main argument subscribes to the George Mallory (of Mount Everest fame) school of reasoning - Why? because it's there.
'What's the problem?' they say
'Just think of 20th February as the release date'

A couple of friends are congratulating me on my willpower but willpower has nothing to do with it.  I've made a choice - might be wondering if it's the wrong choice - but it's my bed and I'm lying in it.  Anyway I have no willpower.  If I did I wouldn't be eating this bar of chocolate now!

Just to be clear here my decision is not an ethical one. I have no problem at all with downloading an unofficial copy - heck we even have one in the house!

Let's face it anyone who owns one of these is a big enough fan to buy the real thing when it comes out.

I still believe that nothing can beat the excitement of opening the CD, putting it on the stereo and settling down with the sleeve notes to listen for the first time. My regular readers especially those going back to the early posts will know about my affection for sleeve notes. It has seriously hampered my advance to the digital age of downloads.

Looking back I'm not sure whether I heard WOAD in advance.  I was so underwhelmed by the album that I remember little about the release. There certainly wasn't as much furore surrounding it as there is with Wrecking Ball. I suppose the folks who did hear it before the release date had already let the rest of us know that, shall we say, it fell short of our expectations.

I'm a big fan of The Promise and I didn't shut my ears to any of that.  I recall hearing Fire on the radio a week or so beforehand and I already owned a CD of Darkness outtakes. Anyway some of the excitement of that release was the packaging!

I didn't listen to Magic in advance. Well that's not strictly true.  I fell at the final hurdle so to speak.  A friend had passed a leaked copy to us which languished around the house for a couple of weeks. On a long car journey the day before the release date we listened to it once.

This release is different though.  Up until about three years ago there was only Mike and I discussing the new songs between ourselves. Now we are part of a wide circle of Bruce friends. I didn't anticipate this would change my perspective.

In the last week a lot of the folks I know through Facebook and some close Bruce buddies have been devouring the new stuff and I'm not at the party. I was invited but decided to stay away. I could turn up now but the jelly and ice cream has already been eaten.

I reckon I might as well wait the extra week now but what I thought was a good idea might have now become a bad one.  I have missed being able to put my two-penneth in along with everyone else.  By the time I'm able to give you my insights it will be two weeks down the road - hardly finger on the pulse stuff then.

But I still have the thrill of listening for the first time to look forward to.

Photo from Bruce Springsteen news.  Bruce at benefit concert for the family of Tony Strollo

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Dilemma

So with the help of someone with good IT skills, the wonders of the internet and a Bruce Buddy as obsessed as I am, by 6.00am (UK time) on Monday morning there was, waiting for me via Facebook, a You Tube clip of Bruce's stellar performance at The Grammys.  Such a great way to start the week.

Tuesday morning I was watching the same performance on the TV after having recorded it in the early hours.  It looked just as good the second time around.  You can't have failed to notice how excited the violinist was over Bruce's left shoulder and you just have to smile at her Bruuuuucing at the end.

As always there were some naysayers on Greasy Lake  but I thought the man did good.

So then we are on to a press conference in Paris. Sony treated us to highlights and enticing snippets of some tracks from the album.

All I can say is wow!  -  loved them.

And whilst Bruce was in Paris he bumped into Cecile - one of our  Greasy Lake friends 

Following on from the press event we had a plethora of reviews of the album.  There's this from the Irish Times, this in The Independent and the review from the Guardian is here.  These all followed pretty much the same format but The Telegraph decided to go for a blow by blow account of each track.  Whether or not the music critics like the album will have no bearing on my opinion. Well let's face it I'm not exactly objective when it comes to Bruce's music and I'm gonna like it anyway.  

Well we are going to be able to hear the album, by way of a track a day, on Absolute Radio. This puts me in a dilemma. I like the anticipation of a new album almost as much as the actual thing. It's a bit like Christmas. No matter how wonderful your presents are you can't beat the thrill of seeing them for the first time. As a child I didn't go looking to see where mum and dad had hidden my presents and even now I don't squidge and squash the gifts under the tree to see if I can guess what's inside. I would just hate to know what they were before I opened them.

So once I've heard the album for the first time the surprise has gone. That wonderful feeling when I first open the CD put it on the stereo and hear those first few seconds only happens once. Historically, Mike  and I have always set aside a couple of hours to listen to the album for the first time. We open a bottle of wine, lock the door, turn off the phone and settle down. I love that frisson of excitement when I hear a song for the first time. We sit in silence, with just the odd look exchanged and, at the end, perhaps pick our favourite track. Then we listen again - possibly discussing each track as we hear it.  This is the only time we just sit and listen to an album and we only do it with Bruce.  Normally music is on in the background in our house.

The flip side of this is that many of my Bruce buddies will be discussing the album before I have even heard it and there will be endless threads on Greasy Lake. I like to be in the know so I'll find it really difficult to be out of the loop.  Do I really want to be listening to the album for the first time when lots of other folks already know all the words?  Oh! and am I depriving myself of two weeks enjoyment? What If I die in the next two weeks?  Well, if I do, Mike says he'll play the album at my wake!

Hmmmm it's a toughie but after due consideration I've made my decision. I don't want to hear any more tracks until I get the cd in my hot little hands.  Roll on March 5th.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

I'm So Excited

So who's getting excited then? - ME!!!!!!.
Only three weeks until the new album and only 130 days (or if you prefer 3120 hours or 187200 minutes or even 11232000 seconds) until my first gig of the new tour. By then Bruce will have already done 35 concerts so, being an avid set list watcher, I will pretty much know what the nightly staples will be.
There'll be time for him to change it around a bit if it's not working.  There were only six new songs in the set list at at the beginning of the Working on a Dream tour. By the time we saw him in Dublin they'd been whittled down to three. 

On The Rising tour there were 11 new songs in the set when the tour started in August 2002.  All of these were still present and correct when we saw Bruce at Wembley Arena in October.  By the time Old Trafford came around in May the following year 9 songs were still there. At the time the band remarked how quickly the fans had taken to The Rising - do I remember this from interviews they did prior to televising the show from Barcelona? 

We all know that Bruce has a pretty good feel for the audience, so what we hear this tour, may depend on how well he percieves the new stuff is going down.
Of course there are other new (old) songs for Bruce to draw on, as he hasn't been out and about much since The Promise was released.  Now, I really like The Promise and I had hoped, at the time that Bruce would tour with it. Who knows I may like Wrecking Ball just as much but I'd still love to hear, perhaps, Wrong Side of the Street or The Brokenhearted or better still It's A Shame.
When I first heard It's a Shame I thought it would have been a great song for Southside Johnny but Bruce must have wanted to hold onto it himself at the time. The song has horns - lots of them - a great fit for The Jukes. 

Now we know what Bruce has in store for us. Perfectly described here. I quote in part:

Can we call them the new Miami Horns??? Yes it will take 5 accomplished, mortal men to replace one Big Man! When Bruce Spingsteen hits the road next month, he will have a 5-piece horn section which will include Ed Mannion and Jake Clemons (Clarence's nephew) on sax, Barry Danielan and Curt Ramm on trumpet and Clark Gayton on trombone.

Most impressive, Boss!!!

So Bruce a horns section. It would be a shame not to play It's a Shame. 

I might have an ally here in Little Steven

I think we share the same music taste as second album of Tracks is also one of my faves.  Give me Loose Ends or Where The Bands Are any day.  Actually I've been lucky enough to hear both of these live already but a second time wouldn't hurt.
Anyway, before all that, the thing that has me brimming over with excitement today are The Grammys.  I can't wait to see this first live performance of We Take Care of Our Own.  Apparently it went down a storm at rehearsals according to The Toronto Sun:

The 62-year-old singer-guitarist took to the stage at L.A.'s Staples Center to perform his new single We Take Care of Our Own, but quickly turned the normally subdued rehearsal process into an energized mini-concert for a few hundred lucky onlookers.
Accompanied by a string section and backed by his long-serving band — minus sax player Clarence Clemons, who died last year — Springsteen delivered several powerful, commanding performances of the song. Although it was ostensibly just a runthrough for TV and technical crews, The Boss played and sang as if he were in a sold-out arena instead of a nearly empty one. Clad in a black-leather jacket over jeans and a V-neck T-shirt, he windmilled and slashed away at the strings of his Telecaster, at one point jumping onto his upturned Marshall speaker cabinets to commune with drummer Max Weinberg. Between takes, he helped teach the string section their parts, standing on an amp to conduct. "They sound good," he enthused. "We're getting there. Almost."
Springsteen's performances — which generated more interest and applause than any Grammy rehearsal I've seen — was an early highlight on the second day of prep for the 54th annual awards.

Here in the UK when anything like this is on there is always much discussion beforehand about whether or not we will be able to see it.  As I write this we are thinking we might have access to the live stream. It'll involve staying up until 1.00am though and I have work in the morning. I understand there will be highlights on UK TV on Monday night - nearly as late though 12.30am! actually Tuesday morning.
So my friends over the pond we are relying on you to get something up on YouTube by the time we are up and about on Monday morning.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Dreams Can Come True

The first time I heard Working On a Dream was almost 4 years ago during Barack Obama's campaign for the Democratic nomination to run for president of the USA - awful whistling.

At least, I think I have described this rally correctly.  I acquired my knowledge of US politics almost entirely from watching 'The West Wing'. This must be my favourite TV show of all time and whilst it might not have been exactly true to life, it did at least give me an inkling of the way the US political system works.  I mean how else would I know that The President pardons a turkey at Thanksgiving?

Anyway I've veered a little off topic here.

I'm not keen on WOAD - the track not the album - although the album isn't my favourite either. Love the sentiment - don't love the song.  Having said that, shortly after the album was released, I started working on a dream of my own. I needed to get fit enough to go to Hyde Park and Dublin, so rather perversely, even though I don't particularly like the song it does have special meaning for me.  It will forever remind me of that particular time in my life. BUT Bruce you could have written me something a bit more rousing to help me along!

I started thinking about this because Follow That Dream came on my iPod this week.  I'm a big fan of the BITUSA outtakes and this is a real goody.  In my opionion much much better than WOAD, but then researching this for my blog, I have discovered it's not a Springsteen song at all!

He mentions here that it is one of his favourite Elvis Presley songs.

Now I'm not an Elvis fan.  I don't dislike him, you understand, but I can take him or leave him. This is my excuse for having such a gap in my musical knowledge.

Bruce talks about following dreams in many many songs - the couple in BTR are reaching for a dream, the couple in Thunder Road are leaving town to find their dream, Meet Me In The Land Of Hope And Dreams etc etc etc.

I am partculary partial to a never-give-up-on-your-dreams-just-go-for-it type of song.  I find them very uplifting: very inspiring.  They can persuade me that I can do anything - at least for the duration of the song!

And talking about dreams and Elvis this is one of his best. It brings a lump to my throat whenever I hear it.  Having said I'm not an Elvis fan I reckon he really pulls it out of the bag on this one.

 It's on this list of The 100 Most Beautiful Song Lyrics and look what's at the position below!

On a completely different subject I bought a new compact camera this week. I guess most people judgea cameras on their ability to take a good holiday photo or a good landscape. I, on the other hand, needed a decent zoom and one that takes good pictures in low light. Yes you've guessed it - I'm planning on smuggling it into a gig.

Anyway I've been playing with it.  It has one of those thingys that isolates certain colours. Here's something you will recognise with the red bits only highlighted.