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Yes, I have been listening quite a bit to the new Bruce record, The Rising. Yes, I like it very much. First, the complaints.

It's too long. There are far too many songs -- clocking in at just under 73 minutes -- and there are definitely some throwaways. "Further On (Up the Road)" is boring; "Paradise," while lyrically pretty, has unengaging music; "Waiting on a Sunny Day," while having melodies very reminiscient of "Two Hearts" and "Hungry Heart" from The River, is lyrically lazy.

That said, this is easily Bruce's best record since Tunnel of Love. What's particularly interesting about the album is how differnet songs harken back to different sounds in Bruce's career. "Nothing Man" sounds like it could have come off of Tunnel, while "Lonesome Day" could have hailed from BITUSA, and "Mary's Place" could have been from the River. Most intriguing are some of the musical references one catches. "My City of Ruins" opens with a chord progression straight out of the Band's "The Weight," while I swear that there's a little of "Jet Airliner" -- a song most famously recorded by the Steve Miller Band -- in the chorus of "The Rising." And the summer party sex fest of "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)" owes more than a great deal to the Impressions' classic "We're a Winner."

Is it a five star masterpiece? Let's hold off on those kind of hosannas. Let's just welcome Mr. Springsteen back to the land of the living, with an album with a great deal of soul -- and a great deal on its mind.

posted by Anon. 12:59 PM


Summer of love

One reason why I'm restarting Palmermix a month earlier than the originally promised end of hiatus was due to the bountiful summer of music. Another record that I've recently checked out is the Linda Thompson comeback record, Fashionably Late. Linda hadn't recorded anything since a solo record she recorded right after she and Richard split up, in the early eighties. (There's a very fine, worthwhile single disc anthology of her work, entitled Dreams Fly Away -- worth picking up, though I also actively recommend Island's single disc anthology of her and Richard's early work.)

Her career ended because she lost her voice -- literally, couldn't sing anymore. Less a physical situation than a mental block, I think. She went off, got married to someone else, and worked, I believe, either in publishing or at an agency for years.

Now lovely Linda has come back. Her voice is exactly as you might remember it, which is beautiful and ghostly. Think Christine McVie meets Nick Drake. The problem: the songwriting just ain't quite there. It's a lovely record for atmosphere and her voice, but so few of the melodies stick with you. And that's a big change from the most famous Linda songs of the R< ouvre: "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," "Wall of Death," "For Shame of Doing Wrong," etc. The main exception here is "Dear Mary," the opener which features ... Richard Thompson on guitar.

posted by Anon. 1:04 PM


Steve Earle, off the tracks

A friend at work is a former music journalist who still gets some freebies mailed to him. He recently received the new Steve Earle -- Jerusalem -- and lent it to me. You've been hearing about it in the news, for Steve, never a shy one, has written a song called "John Walker's Blues," about everyone's favorite American Taliban.

I've been listening to it a good amount this past week. The verdict? I regret to report that it is easily Steve's weakest effort since the career resurgence he enjoyed after serving time following a heroin bust. Steve's enjoyed quite a roll since getting out of jail: starting with the acoustic Train-A-Comin', the rocking Feel Alright, El Corazon (my favorite of his), the bluegrass record he did with the Del McCoury Band, The Mountain, and then 2000's Transcendental Blues. While some of those records are better than others -- the Mountain is sometimes a little too laid back, Transcendental Blues a little too polished, Feel Alright a little uneven -- it's still an amazing run. Even his compilation of B-sides released earlier this year, Sidetracks, had some great cuts.

Sadly, Jerusalem is a departure from that winning streak. It starts with the music -- this is a step back for Steve, going back to the boring Bon Jovi and Mellencamp hard guitars of his weakish "middle period" -- Copperhead Road, the Hard Way, etc. His vocals also are slurred, and often kept in the back of the mix, so that you can't hear the lyrics too well. Which might be just as well, because the real flaw of the album are the lyrics. This is Steve's "political record" -- he's written about politics before, sometimes successfully -- "Ellis Unit One" and "Billy Austin" dealing with the death penalty -- and sometimes less so -- El Corazon's "Christmastime in Washington." But here, his politics dominate the songs. Which would be fine, except Steve does it with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Iris Dement did a better job of melding country sounds with radical politics.

The best songs on the record come at the end -- a couple of love songs, a rave-up called "Go Amanda" that sounds like something Lowell George woulda written, and a nice duet with Emmylou Harris. And then there's the title track at the end, "Jerusalem," where Steve does find a way to meld his politics with beautiful melodies and more subtle imagery. That song should have been the beginning to this album -- and not, as it is, the end. As it is, a great song suggests what Steve's "political album" coulda been.

posted by Anon. 2:28 PM

September 1 seemed far too long. But is anyone out there?

posted by Anon. 2:19 PM