Bruce’s ‘Dream’ becomes a reality with release of 16th studio album

Tim Magaw

When Bruce Springsteen released “Magic” in 2007, it was a return to the pop roots that brought him to fame with 1975’s “Born to Run.”

Credit: DKS Editors

It was a formula the Boss had largely ignored for years – even with his previous effort with the E Street Band on 2002’s “The Rising.” Nonetheless, Springsteen couldn’t get away from the powerful riffs, sleek production and raucous lyrics that made “Magic” so – well – magical. Thus, “Working on a Dream” was born, and Springsteen hopes for the same results as the album’s predecessor.



Workin on a Dream

Released by Columbia

Stater rating (out of five): ☆☆☆ & 1/2

This collection, however, seems more like a Springsteen solo album than a true E Street Band effort. Absent are the extended sax solos and guitar breakdowns that characterize most concerts by Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Instead, we are left in a swamp of Brendan O’Brien’s production inspired largely by Phil Specter’s Wall of Sound. That isn’t necessarily a criticism as much as it is an enigma, considering the album was recorded on breaks during the band’s extensive “Magic” tour. The only true E Street performance is on “My Lucky Day,” in which Springsteen’s vocals soar above mighty guitar riffs reminiscent of “No Surrender” from the 1984 album “Born in the USA.”

O’Brien’s production – and at times, overproduction – isn’t always for the worse. The album’s epic opener “Outlaw Pete” is an eight-minute Western fable laden with burly cellos, mounting crescendos and wailing harmonica breaks. Though the lyrics would fit slightly better on a second album with the Seeger Sessions band, the song could take a Springsteen concert to new heights.

Springsteen and O’Brien have used the studio in ways the combo hasn’t in the past, and unfortunately, they’ve seemed to forget about the power of the E Street Band at times. This makes it difficult to imagine how this material would translate live, considering arenas – not the studio – are where the Boss does his finest work.

The blues-infused “Good Eye” takes the best of Springsteen’s studio capability and live energy, making it one of the album’s standout tracks. It sounds much like recent live renditions of his classic “Reason to Believe” with a sweeping harmonica and Bruce’s snarling growl.

“Queen of the Supermarket” has hints of trademark Springsteen piano melodies, reminding us of classics like “Racing in the Street” and “Incident on 57th Street.” Unfortunately, the lyrics are borderline juvenile like some of the album’s other tracks, including “Kingdom of Days” and “What Love Can Do.”

The album’s title track, which hit the road with Springsteen on a number of stops in support of Barack Obama, is filled with the unbridled optimism that fueled the president’s historic run to the White House. This optimism, which stretches through much of the album’s material, however, isn’t enough of a coherent theme to completely tie it all together.

For example, “The Rising” was made in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, chronicling the heroism during those trying times and the impending struggles ahead. “Magic” was a stark criticism of the perils of the Bush administration.

“Working on a Dream,” however, lacks that defining characteristic, leaving an otherwise fine album overshadowed by Springsteen’s other gems.


Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)


“Growin’ Up,” “Lost in the Flood,” & “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City”

The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973)


“4th if July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” “Incident on 57th Street,” & “Rosalita”

Born to Run (1975)


“Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” & “Night”

Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)


“Badlands,” “Racing in the Streets,” & “Prove It All Night”

The River (1980)


“The River,” “Hungry Heart,” & “Stolen Car”

Nebraska (1982)


“Atlantic City,” “Highway Patrolman,” & “Reason to Believe”

Born in the USA (1984)


“I’m On Fire”

“Darlington County”

“No Surrender”

Tunnel of Love (1987)


“Tougher than the Rest” & “Brilliant Disguise”

Human Touch (1992)


“Roll of the Dice”

Lucky Town (1992)


“If I Should Fall Behind”

The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995)


“The Ghost of Tom Joad,” “Youngstown,” & “My Best Was Never Good Enough”

The Rising (2002)


“The Rising,” “Lonesome Day” & “Further On (Up the Road)”

Devils & Dust (2005)


“Devils and Dust,” “Matamoros Banks” & “Leah”

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)


“Mrs. McGrath,” “Jacob’s Ladder” & “Pay Me My Money Down”

Magic (2007)


“Devil’s Arcade,” “Livin’ in the Future” & “Long Walk Home”

Contact editor Timothy Magaw at [email protected].