Sunday, December 20, 2009

Magic In The Night: The Words And Music Of Bruce Springsteen

Looking for a well written, exceptionally crafted, introspective review of Bruce Springsteen’s entire body of work from Greetings From Asbury Park all the way through his latest recordings? Well, look no further, that book is available from St. Martin’s Griffin.

Magic In The Night by Bob Kirkpatrick is a detailed look at Bruce Springsteen’s life through songs. An album by album retrospective of what was happening in the life of the band at the time each album was written. Kirkpatrick gives us a candid look at the recording process, the unreleased material for each album and what became of it, and a detailed breakdown of each song that was included on the finished master.

Kirkpatrick is an exceptional writer and Magic In The Night reads like the most detailed review of every Springsteen album in existence. He even covers the official live albums that Springsteen has released over the years. His intricate portrait of each album and the amount of work that went into them shows the working man side of Springsteen. Kirkpatrick also paints the picture of how Springsteen and his songs evolved over time, influenced by the changes America went through over the decades.

Springsteen wrote from the heart and painted the backdrop that he saw around him. Kirkpatrick notes that in the seventies, the young Springsteen wrote of romantic lovers in alleys wanting to run away, leave town, and leave everyone behind. Themes on his first albums were racing, fighting, working because you had to, only to wait until the night arrived so that you could cut loose and have some real fun.

As the decades changed, so did Springsteen and his writing. The seventies gave way to the eighties and Bruce’s young romantic lovers desperate for escape, gave way to hard working family men that slaved in factories or over hot stoves because they had debts that no honest men could pay. Their evenings of racing in the streets were over and long gone, replaced with adult themes of divorce, the responsibility of family, and the uncertainty of being able to put food on the table. It was during this time that Bruce wrote his magnum opus, Born In The USA. This is the album that would launch him from superstar to music god and he would never be the same again.

In the nineties, Springsteen broke up the band, wrote and released two solo albums on the same day (ala Guns N Roses) and went on tour with a new band. These new songs were about hope and the future, reflecting on the sins of the past, but also forgiving yourself for what happened and being able to move forward. Kirkpatrick explains that Bruce was not reinventing himself, as some critics liked to claim, but rather he was evolving and his steady body of work proved that. So when the critics dismissed the new solo albums as lacking something without the E-Street Band backing Springsteen, Kirkpatrick is quick to point out that it’s just another step in the process of Springsteen’s evolution.

The book wraps up with the 2000s version of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Covering Live In New York City, The Rising, Devils and Dust, The Seeger Sessions, Live in Dublin, and the latest (at the time) Magic. Kirkpatrick continues his exceptional style of picking apart each album and each song layer by layer, stripping them down to the bare essentials that forced Springsteen to write them in the first place.

Kirkpatrick’s writings on the words and songs of Springsteen’s music bring forth the exceptional quality and structure of each album, showing us how they fit into the landscape of America for the time they were written, but still points to how each album is timeless and will be able to fit into the next generation as well. Kirkpatrick’s writing is fluid and easy, with perfect symmetry and flow. He is well written and easy to follow along with. Simply astonishing, Magic In The Night, is a celebration of Springsteen’s records and an enjoyable new take on the modern biography. During the process of explaining the albums, we learn a little more about the man (and the band) behind the body of work. It is an exceptional way to write a biography, even if it isn’t considered to be a true biography, and it’s a whole lot of fun to read.

Ryo’s Rating: A

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