Bruce Springsteen fans, Devils & Dust [Columbia/Sony] will
likely produce two reactions - that of comfort and that of boredom.
Fans who have followed Springsteen dutifully over the years will
be comforted that the album has given us Springsteen the storyteller.
Devils & Dust works like a song cycle, this time it's an emphasis
on the folks south of the border, living out their lives on the
prairies (Black Cowboys/Silver Palomino), or struggling for creature
comforts (Reno, the infamous butt-fuck song or Maria's Bed). But
the real and perhaps only masterful moment is Matamoros Banks,
where Springsteen successfully melds real feeling with intriguing
a back-to-front narrative like the film classic, Sunset Boulevard,
Springsteen brings a dead migrant back to life through his memories.
The title track, which is Springsteen's statement against the
War on Iraq, falls outside the rest of the songs and as a result,
becomes almost incidental.
I fall into the second category of fans and Devils & Dust
just bored me to tears. I stopped listening to Springsteen seriously
since 1992's Human Touch and Lucky Town. The last one I really
cared for was 10 years before that and it was Nebraska. Devils
& Dust comes across too much like Springsteen's mature sound
of the 90s and everything that Streets of Philadelphia represented.
It's also a Springsteen who's waiting to assume the mantle of
a Johnny Cash.
Though Springsteen has taken his share of risks, for example,
speaking out against the American-led war on Iraq, he hasn't quite
passed through his ring of fire. That voice of authority and pain
that Cash could summon just by breathing, is something that is
still eluding Springsteen.
+ + + + +
The Hottest Band In Their Sixties: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
May 5, 2005 [No label 2CD]
Three old men had agreed to play four nights at a venue where
37 years ago, they bade farewell as 1968 marked the end of Cream.
Eric Clapton , Jack Bruce  and Ginger Baker , sold
out the Royal Albert Hall where three-quarters of Pink Floyd sat
in the audience among celebrity and the moneyed kind in anticipation.
For the rest, hopes depended on the intrepid recorder to smuggle
his gear in and make this illicit recording.
So here it
is, an audience tape made with a "solid state recorder",
stereo mics and located in the circle seats, right of the stage.
The mix favors bass and drums so you have to turn your bass knob
to one-quarter while pushing treble to three-quarters. The taper
isnt too far away so the sound is clear and the voices near
enough to avoid the halls echo.
It is a marvelous
show from start to finish with no surprises. All the old faithfuls
from the 68 tour [ie Live Cream and Live Cream Vol 2] are
played in Cream style - NSU, Sleepy Time Time, Sweet Wine, Rollin
And Tumblin from Vol 1 and Deserted Cities Of The Heart,
White Room, Politician and the encore Sunshine Of Your Love from
Vol 2. Not to miss anything Cream also play Were Going Wrong
from Disraeli Gears; Pressed Rat And Warthog from Wheels Of Fire
and the excellent Crossroads that marked Eric Clapton for life.
None of the
excesses that marred the 68 tour are here. Ginger Bakers
solo spot, Toad, is kept to under 14 mins. The sprightly Badge,
the only great song on Goodbye, is given its four-minute pop treatment.
Theres also no shortage of the blues - T Bone Walkers
Stormy Monday, Booker Ts Born Under A Band Sign and the
Wolfs Sitting On Top Of The World. Eric and Jack take turns
singing lead. You dont sense tension but great warmth and
For the twentysomethings,
the big deal about Cream will be how three old men can sound like
a hurricane without an orchestra. With guitar, bass and drums,
Cream pioneered the power trio. Listen to Cream next to a trio
of the 90s, like Nirvana, and you can tell who was leader
and who follower. Respect. - The Little Chicken