Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen (2012. Columbia Records)

Wow! With only occasional help from his E Street Band mates (including the last recorded saxophone solo by the Big Man), and guest artists including Tommy Morello of Rage Against the Machine, this is quintessential angry Boss at its best. You get full throated chorales, brassy horns, thumping bass and drums, wailing guitars, Celtic fiddle and mandolin, and just about every other musical genre or influence you can think of in one album. There isn’t a weak cut on this effort. And, if you’re smart enough to pay an extra two bucks and make sure you buy the copy that includes two bonus tracks, the eery “Swallowed Up” and the history and hope laden “American Land”, you will be amazed.

Sure, some of the music seems, at first listen, as if you’ve heard it all before. When you’ve written and played as many original tunes as Springsteen has over the course of his luminous career, you’re bound to repeat yourself here and there. But honestly, if you listen to this collection with the volume up and the top down (or in my case, with the moonroof open), well, you will come to admit: “He is indeed The Boss”. With a lyrical ability approaching Dylan, the social attitude of Neil Young in his prime, and the uncanny skill to bring disparate musical traditions together in a rock album, Springsteen has attained the apex of American, if not international, music stardom. And yet, behind every tune, behind every angry (“We Take Care of Our Own”) or touching (“This Depression”) song, we still hear that punk kid from New Jersey who captured our hearts and minds with music four decades ago.

A classic, up there with Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, and Nebraska.

5 stars out of 5.

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