Working On a Dream

Working On a Dream

At the end of the recording sessions for 2007’s Magic, Bruce Springsteen was in forward songwriting momentum, and producer Brendan O’Brien encouraged him to keep writing. For someone who often took years to finish a record, Working on a Dream marks a rare moment in which Bruce Springsteen managed to turn around an album quickly, releasing it in early 2009. The record is more upbeat and personal than its predecessors, and more stylistically diverse: There’s more pop, more bounce, more jangle, more harmonies. And there’s a wholehearted embrace of many of Springsteen’s favorite rock ’n’ roll sounds, from The Beach Boys to the Raspberries to Phil Spector’s infamous Wall of Sound. There’s even random bits of psychedelia on songs like “Life Itself” and “This Life.” The members of the always-sturdy E Street Band can play anything, and, on Working on a Dream, it’s nice to hear them stretch to places they usually don’t go. The record opens with an eight-minute song—a spaghetti western titled “Outlaw Pete” that allows Springsteen to indulge in his Ennio Morricone fantasies. There’s also a couple of love songs, “My Lucky Day” and “Kingdom of Days.” And the title track made its debut at a campaign stop for presidential candidate Barack Obama, performed by Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa as an acoustic duo. The record’s strongest moments include “The Wrestler”—which won a Golden Globe—and “The Last Carnival,” a tribute to E Street Band organist Danny Federici, who died of cancer in 2008. He was one of Springsteen’s oldest bandmates, and so it’s only fitting that this coda to 1973’s “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” closes out the record.

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