CD Review: Bruce Springsteen’s “Devils and Dust”

Originally posted 2008-06-26 13:34:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  2 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

I had read many reviews of this album long before I ever listened to it, and they were all good. They weren’t simply good reviews. Rather, Rolling Stone among others made this out to be the most incredible Springsteen album in years, if ever. Thus, my expectations were high when I bought Devils and Dust late one night and eagerly cranked it up for my half hour drive home.

The first track—the title track—is a nice start to a dark album, but I found myself disappointed quickly. Perhaps it was because I expected more upbeat songs, a la The Rising. Or perhaps it was because I was driving home with the windows open, cool breeze in my face, and I was having trouble hearing what Springsteen was singing. Whatever the reason, I quickly became disappointed with the release and told my friends why I thought it was overrated.

While I have not decided to declare this a veritable masterpiece that I initially overlooked, I must admit that my opinion of the album has softened with time. What helped to change my mind was viewing the DVD side of this DualDisc release. While the stripped-down nature of the studio recordings initially turned me off—and I usually have nothing against bare bones recordings—his live, solo acoustic performances allowed me to hear the songs for themselves, independent of my initial expectations. Springsteen appeared Dylan-esque, complete with acoustic guitar and harmonica rack. I loved “Devils and Dust” all the more here for its directness, for its simplicity. Suddenly, it was as though he was singing an old folk song—a well-written, dark yet catchy number. “Long Time Comin’” stood out to me again, having been one of my favorite album tracks.

There was something in Springsteen’s commentary in between songs that captured my interest and sparked my respect for the man. He seemed to be legitimately interested in writing minimalist songs as personal narratives both autobiographical and fictional. “Reno” is the perfect example of this captivating and revolting blend between the real and the conjured, the noble and the pitiful that he is able to weave together so well. In the best songs on this album, Springsteen exposes a subtle poetic sensibility that lends credibility and interest to his work. In subsequent listenings, I have found myself most taken in by these occasionally vivid and descriptive turns of phrase.

Still, I don’t quite understand some of the choices he made for the songs on this album. For instance, why did he sing the penultimate track, “All I’m Thinkin’ About,” in the odd, cracked voice manner that he did? Furthermore, why did he choose some of the subject matter that he did? What are the Matamoros Banks and would it make a difference if we knew? After all, I wonder why he would sing such a pretty song about a place that I have difficulty relating to, even after he has described it through his song. These are the moments — hearing him sing in unusual manners for no apparent reason and memorializing specific places that I have difficulty understanding the importance of — that I wonder what is so masterful about this album. It is a decent album, to be sure, and contains some good songs, but it is more of a return to roots than a step forward.

For all that I am impressed with the earthiness of the songs, the fervent attention to immortalizing the devils and the dust, I am still most in awe of a song like “Jesus Was An Only Son.” For its interesting depiction of an oft-discussed historical figure/son of God/son of man, for its flowing tune, and for its haunting organ riffing in the background, I wonder what the album would have been like if as much attention had been paid to the other tracks.

While its slow, gritty ballads pay homage to its namesake, I can’t help but note that if the album had been comprised of “Devils and Dust”’s and “Jesus Was An Only Son”’s, I may have called it masterful.

2005

“All Along the Watchtower” (A Bob Dylan Cover)

Originally posted 2008-07-12 11:54:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Now, this is truly a day of firsts for me. Three firsts, if I count them accurately. In order of occurrence: (1) I woke up on my own, on a Saturday, at a decent hour, and got right out of bed. Anyone who knows me on any personal level to any degree knows how amazing that truly is. (2) Then, I recorded my Saturday cover video in one take, including rehearsals. When it comes to these cover song sessions, I am probably more of a perfectionist than I should be. Thus, I repeatedly practice and record the music videos until I’m satisfied I could not do any better. Suffice it to say that usually takes anywhere between five and twenty-five takes. Today, one!! And, finally (3) I came upstairs from FMP Studios to find Jim, having just woken up, in an excellent mood. This is nothing against Jim — and I’m admittedly a bear (not one of those friendly, cuddly ones you might see at a show with a trainer, but one of those angry, blood thirsty ones that attack campers and hikers without provocation ala the John Candy movie The Great Outdoors) if you try to wake me from nodding off during a movie, etc. — but Jim’s just not a morning person. We sat and talked about the music blog, brainstormed some new ways to improve our views and content, and then laughed quite heartily about bathroom humor, the details of which I’ll spare you.

All told, really not a bad way to start a beautiful, sunny summer day!

But let’s get down to business. My acoustic cover song for today is Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Ironically, you are probably more familiar with the Jimi Henrix’s cover version than you are of Dylan’s original music. And, even as a HUGE Dylan fan, I have to admit that Hendrix’s cover song is the definitive version. Even Dylan admitted as much — his live performances of the song still reflect Hendrix’s arrangement. That being said, Dylan’s original is heavily acoustic, so I felt that would be a better version for this acoustic guitar music video. So, I grabbed my acoustic guitar, dusted off my harmonica rack, and gave it my all. One take. Could it have been better, more polished? Yes, I suppose. But this is what the Laptop Sessions are all about — this is a snapshot in time, as though you sat down with me in my living room and I just played it for you, on a whim. I hope you enjoy it!

And, of course, don’t miss the unveiling of an all-new acoustic cover song from Jeff Copperthite — his next quality cover video will be posted here tomorrow…

See you next session!

**EDITOR’S NOTE: This video is no longer on YouTube, but please check out our other Bob Dylan cover songs here on the music video blog!

“Breezy” (Final Fantasy VIII (8) Soundtrack Cover)

Originally posted 2008-02-05 18:03:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

And once again, for something totally new in a few ways to the Laptop Sessions – a song from a video game.

Not just any video game, but from my all time favorite series. Final Fantasy has been a mainstay for me for nearly 20 years, and I have always been a fan of all the soundtracks. My MP3 player has nearly every OST song from the games, and they are high in my top 20.

The song I have chose to play is from Final Fantasy 8, and it is called Breezy. Oddly enough, it is also the music that plays when you go to the character Zell’s hometown (and if you notice my name, zell is the first four letters).

It also is one of the few songs that Nobuo Uematsu (was Final Fantasy’s main composer for quite some time) wrote solely for guitar. The rest of the soundtrack is typical to a video game.

Anyway, enjoy this instrumental laptop session. Check out Jim’s Original Wednesday contribution tomorrow as Laptop Session a day is 36/36 in 2008!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“New Horizons” (Moody Blues Cover)

Originally posted 2008-06-13 22:00:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to your fantastic Friday edition of The Laptop Sessions. Today I delve into a new band for me, but Jim has covered this band before. Of course i’m talking about the Moodies themselves.

I bring you a song from The Moody Blues’ album “Seventh Sojourn” called “New Horizons”. Jim introduced me to this song on a past radio show, and I have enjoyed it since. There is no Moody Blues song that I have heard that I didn’t like. I really should purchase some of their albums.

I’m very happy with how this video came out. You may notice I am using a capo. The song is in F and I usually have no problem whatsoever playing a song in F without a capo, but this song does require some barre chords to play. My arm was in a bit of pain today because I took a baseball off my shoulder in a game I umpired today. Barre chords tend to hurt my hand and forearm if I play them for a long time. I can get through a song fine, but today not so much. So I capo’d the song on the 5th fret, and played it using a C transposition. Worked for me, hopefully it’ll work for you.

A new band is coming to the sessions on Monday. Remember to check back every day for a new session, as a single laptop session a day rolls on through 2008!

Come back tomorrow for Jim’s latest and greatest session!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and origianal music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!