Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Record Label: Columbia Records
If every record Bruce Springsteen released past his 55th birthday was just like Magic, I’d never want him to stop writing music. As it is, I will listen to and most likely obsess over any new music from The Boss. But Magic is a late-career masterpiece of a record that shows two main points of interest to listeners: first, that even as Springsteen and The E Street Band age, they still have more energy than groups 30 years younger than them, and second, that Springsteen can still compose a near-perfect rock and roll album.
Opener and first single “Radio Nowhere” is a high-octane rocker that proved to be the perfect re-introduction to the E Street Band, who we hadn’t seen on a Springsteen release since 2002. More than anything, Springsteen’s storytelling shines on the first half of this record, as he paints as vivid imagery as ever in his choruses. The double-shot of the danceable “Gypsy Biker” and the meant-for-live-performances “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” provides a thick coat of certainty for listeners who had their doubts about Springsteen’s 15th full-length. As a matter of fact, both of these numbers were brilliantly translated into live sets, with the former earning a wild guitar solo and the latter being a rock-solid mid-tempo number to throw in the middle of a batch of older material.
“Last To Die,” “Long Walk Home” and “Devil’s Arcade” make the record one of Springsteen’s legendary efforts. They’re the last three songs on the album before the hidden track, and they each display the midpoint between Springsteen’s brilliant, reckless early years and the wisdom and calculated genius of his later ones. “Devil’s Arcade” hits particularly hard, especially in the musicianship department, when the mostly calm track is overpowered by a tidal wave of emotion as Springsteen chants, “The beat of your heart / the beat of your heart / in the Devil’s arcade.”
At the end of the album, the hidden final number is a gem of a track. Although not originally planned to be included in the record, the track, called “Terry’s Song,” is a tribute to a long-time Springsteen assistant named Terry Magovern. The song will tear at the heartstrings of anyone who has lost somebody close to them, as Springsteen’s declarations of, “When they built you, brother / They broke the mold,” carry a heavy weight.
Magic is a certainly underrated contribution to an already sterling catalog of music from The Boss. Around 2007, some older groups continued to tour for years on their greatest hits (The Rolling Stones), or put out watered-down and lazy albums to garner undeserved radio play (U2). But Bruce Springsteen put out one of his most quality efforts and went on a world tour that, over 40 years after their rise to stardom, solidified his group as the best touring band in the history of music.
I agree with this. It's that "midpoint," like I tried to say. This is the best post-Tunnel record in my opinion, even though The Rising is right there with it.
I love how it's sort of obviously harkening back to earlier sounds at points, like the BTR-esque piano intro on "I'll Work For Your Love" and the swing feel of "Livin' In The Future". It's not quite as ambitious as his first few records, but it's cool seeing him bring back a similar feel after all these years.
A better record than The Rising, overall, I think, though the former is a more emotional effort with better individual tracks. And there was no need to take a shot at U2, as their 2009 record is far, far better than Springsteen's effort that year.