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!

“Nobody” (MoU Original Cover)

Originally posted 2008-08-06 20:07:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

That’s right – it is the best day of the week.  A day where you can hear something from the Fusco-Moore library.  As promised on Sunday, I present you with…well, more than a Jim Fusco song.  It’s actually a Chris Moore, Jim Fusco, and Mike Fusco song.  Heh – finally I get to do a song that has Chris Moore in the credits.

It is from their MoU EP “Meaningless” (check it out on Jim’s website here), a song called “Nobody”.  The song, like every song on this EP, has a double meaning (or, a “meaningless” meaning).  Short and sweet, this song was originally conceived on the piano.  I decided it needed the laptopsessions.com acoustic treatment, and covered it on my acoustic.

Of course, I also made a couple other changes that only Chris, Jim, and Mike may notice.  Well, you may notice it too if you have listened to the EP!

Make sure you come back all week, where Jim and Chris will post their latest acoustic cover videos, and on Saturday you will see me cover my third Pink Floyd song – also by request.  If you’ve been paying attention to recent posts, you can probably guess which song it’ll be.

Enjoy today’s original, and come back tomorrow for the next Jim Fusco pick.  You may notice he’ll look a bit scared, because he knows who will be crushing him in a homerun derby on Friday.

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!

“Down Under” (A Men at Work Cover)

Originally posted 2008-07-15 23:50:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

This is another all-new cover video here at your source for the best cover songs on the web or anywhere: the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music blog! Since I haven’t introduced a brand-new band to the video blog in a while, I decided to record a song that I had considered recording back in the specialty “Number Ones Week.” I never recorded this song, which was a number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the eighties, for that week, and I put it aside — out of sight, out of mind — in my bookmarks menu. Then, I came across it tonight and decided to make it official.

This is “Down Under,” originally performed by the Men at Work. This is an eighties band that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see here on this acoustic cover song blog. But, my father and I had always laughed and enjoyed this song whenever it came on the radio, so I thought it deserved its fair shake as an unplugged performance. It is an extremely easy song to play — the verse and chorus sections are different only by one chord — and it’s right in my comfortable vocal range.

Truth be told, it did take me quite a few takes. Unlike my last post, which I happily reported on Saturday was a one-take (my first ever!) recording, this took me about ten takes, false starts and all. It wasn’t so much that it’s a difficult song because, as I said before, it’s not. However, I haven’t really listened to the song in full for years, so I needed to find it on the YouTube videos search and watch it a couple times. Well, I really only had to listen to it, but it was so funny to watch that I simply couldn’t resist. I love the flute player in the tree and, of course, the man behind the counter “from Brussels” with “muscles” who gives the singer a “Vegemite sandwich.”

To this day, I’m really not even sure what a Vegemite sandwich is…

I actually just looked it up on Wikipedia now, and I found that it’s a “dark brown savoury food paste made from yeast extract, used mainly as a spread on sandwiches, toast and cracker biscuit.” It’s no surprise that I didn’t know what it was because, even though it is distributed by food manufacturing giant Kraft Foods, it has simply not caught on in Western nations such as the United States of America.

Vegemite knowledge notwithstanding, it really took me a long time because I needed to relearn the song. But, as my fellow FMP songwriters Jim and Jeff probably know all too well, I was very tired and had my mind on other things when I realized that tonight was my night to post another quality cover video. So, wiping the mid-summer sweat from my forehead and ignoring the headache that was creeping in, I did what any responsible video blog poster — or at least one who has committed himself to the session-a-day promise — would do… I recorded a Laptop Session.

I hope you enjoy it, as it really is a fun song, and I only wish that I had been able to record this acoustic cover song with some flute accompaniment… If this doesn’t quench your thirst for quality cover videos, you’ll just have to hurry back for Jeff’s next all-new session tomorrow, here on the Laptop Sessions Music Blog.

See you next session!