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Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 29 / 10 / 2020

Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You


Nick Dent-Robinson assesses Bruce Springsteen's extraordinary latest album, 'Letter to You'.

Last year at the London launch of the film version of his 'Western Stars' album, Bruce Springsteen promised there would soon be a new record with the E Street Band. “I must get back to the day job soon,” he laughed... “I gotta pay the bills”. Fortunately Springsteen finished work on 'Letter to You' just before lockdown hit the USA and the record is thoroughly life-affirming in the best traditions of Springsteen. The album took less than five days to complete in his New Jersey barn – which says much for the sheer virtuosity of each member of the E Street Band. It is a powerful, rambunctious record which reinvigorates the E Street Band's carousel of sound in all its swashbuckling glory. There are eight musicians plus Bruce playing for all they are worth with barely any overdubs. It is like a live set minus audience (rather apt in the post-COVID world). On 'House of a Thousand Guitars' Springsteen uses just three - his own Fender plus strong support from Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt. Other key players include pianist Roy Bittan, drummer Max Weinberg and organist Charlie Giordano. Together the band create a warm and nostalgic atmosphere. The opening track, 'One Minute You're Here' is a tender reflection on mortality's “big black train” while the title track and 'Burnin' Train' are characterised by a surging wall of sound...pounding drums, bells, power chords. Springsteen fans will feel very at home with this sound! At 71, Springsteen clearly has a sense of time ticking inexorably by. Driven by The Who-like power chords, 'Ghosts' is both a singalong homage to live music and a tribute to Bruce's sadly departed former bandmates like organist Danny Frederici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons – whose nephew Jake is playing on three of the album tracks. Despite this being America's election year, 'Letter to You' avoids social commentary or political statements. It is a more personal record than that – and Springsteen is addressing the album to his legions of loyal fans. Springsteen has often said that his all-time favourite music video was the recording of 'Concert for George' - the tribute concert for George Harrison organised by Eric Clapton and held at the Royal Albert Hall back in 2002. The finale of that show - which Springsteen has described as “just perfection” - was British veteran rocker Joe Brown playing 'I'll See You in My Dreams' on ukulele. Interestingly, the final track of 'Letter to You' is also 'I'll See You in My Dreams' - though it is a different song. Some US critics are suggesting the inclusion of this number is intended as a fond farewell to Springsteen's fans - and this might be Springsteen's final studio album. There is, however. so much power in his performance here that I suspect he still has some road left to run.

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Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You

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