by Brad Simm
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
Western Stars is a 180 departure from Springsteen’s recent studio records, shifting the emphasis from bass, drum and guitars to lush, rich and elegant orchestral arrangements. They reverberate from the Southwestern States combining Springsteen’s brisk acoustic work with the sweeping, country-pop overtones of Jimmy Webb’s stellar LA studio hits from the late 60s. The production is majestic and panoramic — a soundtrack arching across the desert floor and open skies cast upon Hollywood’s big screen.
While melodies swell, sometimes stratospheric, Springsteen’s storytelling pulls it all down into quiet, intimate pockets. Many characters bare a resemblance to those found in 1987’s Tunnel Of Love, with lives burdened and broken by choices made that can’t be undone.
Yet there’s also the freewheeling hitchhiker, first to appear on the record, who’s got no destination in mind except raking in the experience of each ride. At the desert cafe, truckers and bikers meet, the roadhouse overflows with drink and dance where “summer girls in the parking lot slap their make-up on and flirt the night away.”
Western Stars is a complex landscape, optimistic and joyous as it is desolate, fatalistic and bittersweet. In it Springsteen draws on people and places as well as his own history grounded in that corner of the universe resulting in a remarkable concept album where the magic flows once again.Bruce Springsteen