Bruce and the E Street Band are touring again, performing songs from The River to mark 35 years since its release. The album has a lot of staying power. The piano might be a little too bright at times, but many of the songs have a great garage band type of quality. The opening track, the Ties that Bind, has guitar lines reminiscent of Roger McGuinn at his best, and the big man, the late Clarence Clemons, is exceptional on the saxophone throughout the album. The work has mixed themes, at times exuberant (Sherri Darling, Out in the Street) while at other times darkly existential (Stolen Car, Wreck on the Highway). The centerpiece, in my opinion, is the haunting title track. As good as any short story, The River captures emotions ranging from hope to despair, and leaves us hanging as to what will happen next. It is, in short, a masterpiece.
For many in my generation, Springsteen is one of those artists whose work spans our lifetime, capturing life's vicissitudes while also giving us a future to think about, to work toward. The last few days have brought us some sadness with the deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. This is to say nothing of the personal losses we all suffer after attaining a certain age (both of my graduate school advisers passed away this year, for example). The important thing is to keep going in spite of these losses and to find something positive to express. It helps to realize with Springsteen that two hearts are better than one and, as he wrote in Badlands, to keep working towards something better, towards a promised land. These things, along with the ties that bind, will keep us going.