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Showing posts from February, 2009

Rock Bottom: Bruce Springsteen

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

*…

210. Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream (2009)

Has anybody else noticed the similar career paths Bruce Springsteen and Prince Rogers Nelson are on? Of course, the Boss emerged a bit earlier than Prince, but both ascended to the highest heights of acclaim in the '80s, spent most of the '90s on self-indulgent meandering, and rediscovered themselves in recent years. They've even both rocked the Super Bowl halftime show.

Bruce's comeback started with 2002's The Rising, an album that was thrilling, if a little full on filler. He took another couple of sidesteps with Devils + Dust and The Seeger Sessions, but came back strong in 2007 with Magic. That album found Bruce and the E Street Band fully embracing their past, writing and performing new songs that sounded like old ones. That continues on Working on a Dream, to a point.

One major difference between Prince and Bruce is that no one has ever been shy about admitting a Prince influence (Justin Timberlake alone owes his whole career to Prince and Michael Jackson), but…

209. Roy Orbison: Mystery Girl (1989)

It was 20 years ago today. The Berlin Wall fell, Milli Vanilli won the Best New Artist Grammy, and The Arsenio Hall Show debuted.

Over the next few months, I'll be looking back at 5 seminal (well, depending on your definition of the word seminal) albums from 1989. Next...

Recently there was an article on Yahoo Music about musicians jumping the shark. Tellingly, none of the jump the shark moments on the list were actually musical. Instead there were things like: "Elton John gets a toupee" and "Bret Michaels looks for his Rock of Love." It was a flawed idea anyway: Musicians can hit Rock Bottom, as we've seen, but they never fully jump the shark. There's always room for a comeback.

(Now songs are a different story. Songs can and do jump the shark, usually because of overexposure or inappropriate use in media, or both. Thanks to Toyota, I could go the rest of my life without hearing Saved By Zero again.)

Roy Orbison had his own comeback in 1989, but it was act…