Magic

Magic

4.4 20
by Bruce Springsteen
     
 

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It's been over a decade since Bruce Springsteen has produced a record like Magic. The Boss likes to mix things up -- cutting solo albums or heading out with atypical musical conglomerations such as his Seeger Sessions band of 2006. But Magic is a return to songcraft and pop music, if not entirely free of the bitter political overtones that haveSee more details below

Overview

It's been over a decade since Bruce Springsteen has produced a record like Magic. The Boss likes to mix things up -- cutting solo albums or heading out with atypical musical conglomerations such as his Seeger Sessions band of 2006. But Magic is a return to songcraft and pop music, if not entirely free of the bitter political overtones that have characterized his work since The Rising. Recording with his loyal E Street Band, collaborating with The Rising producer Brendan O’Brien, fans are guaranteed a full-force rock 'n' roll attack that's in love with the music itself. Magic pays homage to rock forms from Phil Spector-styled wistfulness ("Girls in Their Summer Clothes" ) to insistent punk rock ("Radio Nowhere"), a satisfying blend that acknowledges the most personal, political, and rocking aspects of Springsteen’s musical universe. With old friends from Clarence Clemons to Little Steven Van Zandt onboard to shoulder the world-weary weight, this is the lightest Bruce record in years, escaping the nearly ponderous weight of the "event" album it is. Intimate and exuberant, it's a portrait of the artist once again discovering the simple joy of rhythm, rock, and soul.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Hailed as Bruce Springsteen's return to rock upon its release in fall 2007, Magic isn't quite as straightforward as that description would have it seem. True, this does mark another reunion with the E Street Band, only his second studio album with the group since 1984's Born in the U.S.A., giving this a rock & roll heft missing from his two previous albums -- the dusty, literary Devils & Dust and the raucous We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions -- and unlike The Rising, the first E Street Band album of the new millennium, there is no overarching theme here. It's just a collection of songs, something that Bruce hasn't done since Human Touch, or maybe even The River. All the ingredients are in place for a simple, straight-ahead rock album, except for two things: Springsteen didn't write a lot of flat-out rock songs, and with his producer Brendan O'Brien, he didn't make an album that sounds much like a rock & roll album, either. Magic is bright and punchy, a digital-age production through and through, right down to how each track feels as if it were crafted according to its own needs instead of the record as a whole. Underneath this shiny veneer, the E Street Band can still lift this music toward great heights, infusing it with a sense of majesty, but this is an E Street Band that was recorded piecemeal in the studio, pasted together track by track as the group fit sessions into their busy schedules. This approach gives the album a bit of a mannered, meticulous sound not unlike The Rising, but such careful construction was appropriate for Springsteen's cautious, caring 9/11 rumination; on Magic it tends to keep the music from reaching full flight. Then again, the songs here don't quite lend themselves to either the transcendent sweep of Born to Run or the down-n-dirty roadhouse rockers that cluttered The River. There's a quiet melancholy underpinning this album. It's evident even on the hard-driving "Radio Nowhere," whose charging guitars mask a sense of desperation, or the deceptively breezy "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," which grows more wistful with each passing chorus. "Girls" is also indicative of how Magic doesn't quite feel like classic E Street Band, even when it offers reminders of their classic sound: like "Born to Run," it trades upon Phil Spector, but here the band doesn't absorb the Wall of Sound; they evoke it, giving the song a nostalgic bent that emphasizes the soft sadness in his melody. This oddly bittersweet vibe that is shared by "Your Own Worst Enemy," whose baroque harpsichords -- uncannily reminiscent of the Left Banke -- are the biggest curveball here. That is, it's the biggest specific curveball outside of the overall feel of Magic, which is far too somber to be called just another rock & roll album. The solemn, sepia-toned picture of the Boss on the cover is a pretty big tip-off that there may not be a whole lot of good times coming on Magic, but it's a surprise that this is not only not as joyous as We Shall Overcome, it doesn't have as many moments of sunny relief as The Rising, which had "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and "Mary's Place" among its quiet, artful grief. Here, the joy and the sadness are fused, skewing such otherwise lively numbers as "Livin' in the Future" -- which otherwise sounds like it could sneak onto the second side of Born in the U.S.A. -- toward the sober side. Springsteen also targets war and politics throughout the album, either through metaphors (the title track, where the audience is suckered by a con man) or blunt declarations ("Last to Die"). All this toil and tension doesn't make for a very fun album, but 2007 isn't a very fun time, so it's an appropriate reflection of the time. The thing of it is, despite some fine moments of craft -- both musical and lyrical, whether on "Gypsy Biker" or "Long Walk Home" -- the songs aren't written with the keen literary eye that made Devils & Dust play like a collection of short stories. Like the music, the words just feel a shade too deliberate, rendering Magic just a bit too overthought -- hardly enough to make for a bad record, but one that isn't quite grabbing, even if it is helped immeasurably by the E Street Band in old pro mode. And what's missing comes into sharp relief as the album draws to a close with "Terry's Song," a quickly written and recorded tribute to Terry Magovern, Springsteen's longtime friend and assistant. Compared to the rest of the album, this simple tune is a bit ragged, but it's soulful, moving, and indelible, immediate where the rest of the album is a shade distant. After hearing it, it's hard not to wish that Bruce would record this way all the time.
New York Times - A.O. Scott
There is a brightness of sound and a lightness of touch that are not quite like anything else Mr. Springsteen has done recently....The paradox of “Magic” may be that some of its stories are among the toughest he has told. The album is sometimes a tease but rarely a joke. The title track, for instance, comes across as a seductive bit of carnival patter, something you might have heard on the Asbury Park boardwalk in the old days. A magician, his voice whispery and insinuating in a minor key, lures you in with descriptions of his tricks that grow more sinister with each verse. (“I’ve got a shiny saw blade/All I need’s a volunteer.”) “Trust none of what you hear/And less of what you see,” he warns. And the song’s refrain — “This is what will be” — grows more chilling as you absorb the rest of the album’s nuances and shadows....And while the songs on “Magic” characteristically avoid explicit topical references, there is no mistaking that the source of the unease is, to a great extent, political.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
After wrapping himself in a thousand fiddles on The Seeger Sessions, Springsteen has rediscovered the boardwalk-dance-party power of Born to Run.... But Springsteen’s songwriting here is also intricately wired with outrage and disbelief.
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Willman
Magic [is] his best record since The River in 1980.... Three and a half decades into his career, Bruce Springsteen is back in the masterpiece business. Grade: A
Billboard - Jeff Vrabel
In all, a pretty great return to form.
Toronto Star - Greg Quill
Springsteen's first album with the E Street Band since 2002 is filled with the epic guitars-and-sax and pounding drums that exemplify their classic style.... Magic evokes a world on the brink of chaos, a civilization lost to Bush's "mistake," and the end of the American Dream.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/02/2007
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0886971706024
catalogNumber:
717060

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bruce Springsteen   Primary Artist,Synthesizer,Guitar,Harmonica,Percussion,Glockenspiel,Vocals,Background Vocals,Pump Organ
Nils Lofgren   Guitar,Background Vocals
Clarence Clemons   Saxophone,Background Vocals
Patti Scialfa   Background Vocals
Roy Bittan   Organ,Piano
Danny Federici   Organ,Keyboards
Garry Tallent   Bass
Soozie Tyrell   Violin
Patrick Warren   chamberlain,Tack Piano
Max Weinberg   Drums
Amy Chang   Viola
John Meisner   Violin
Jay Christy   Violin
Daniel Laufer   Cello
Jeremy Chatzky   Upright Bass
Justin Burns   Violin
Tania Maxwell Clements   Viola
Charae Krueger   Cello
Christopher Pulgram   Violin
Karen Freer   Cello
Sheela Lyengar   Violin
Lachlan McBane   Viola
William Pu   Violin
Olga Shpitko   Violin
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band   Performer

Technical Credits

Nick DiDia   Engineer
Bob Ludwig   Mastering
Brendan O'Brien   Producer
Toby Scott   Engineer
Billy Bowers   Engineer
Christopher Austopchuk   Art Direction
Shari Sutcliffe   String Contractor
Harry McCarthy   Contributor
Eddie Horst   String Arrangements
Michelle Holme   Art Direction
Patti Horst   String Contractor

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