This was my original review...and nothing much has changed. Still listen to it a lot, mostly in the car.
So…after a couple of listens about a week early (:-P), here’s my take on LTY.
Generally, I think it’s a strong late-career album, though not on par with Western Stars. While there’s not a "bad song“ on the record and it’s sequenced very well, I believe there were some less-than-good-choices being made that actually deteriorated the album’s quality.
One Minute: Really good opener, particularly in conjunction with the closer – sets the frame for the transitoriness of existence and the question of life and mortality in general.
LTY – solid first single, but far from being the best song on the record, as usual for Springsteen singles. Establishes the second theme of the album (his reflections on being a musician) quite effectively.
Burnin‘ Train – the first true rocker, nice guitars and rather emblematic lyrics typical of latter-day Bruce, though they’re pretty good. One of those songs that you could release on almost any Bruce record post Joad, but well done, played and sung.
Janey – sounds like the famously raucous rehearsal take from 1979 that I suppose everybody knows. I wonder if they re-recorded the entire song, as the guitars sound just as out-of-tune as on the bootleg. It’s a good song with E Street all over and actually pretty creepy lyrics, but it’s about a minute too long. That "knows her style thing“ at the end is too long and just drags…It's one of those decisions...
Last Man – one of my highlights. This one is close to the man’s heart. Strong lyrics, catchy tune, once again, E Street all over on this. The line about "counting off the missing as you count off time“ is brilliant.
Power: Very similar to Last Man, classic Bruce inasmuch as it tries to find grandeur and even divinity in the mundane/everyday. Not so well-received on here, it seems, but I’m quite fond of it. Very catchy, and superbly sung. If they truly cut this live, I’m not worried about his voice at all.
1000 Guitars: Where are the guitars on this fucker? I like the sentiment, the lyrics, all that is fine with me. But goddammit, in the words of the man himself, "turn that motherfucker up as loud as she’ll go“. It's one of those decisions... Plods too much, though I understand its placement in the context of album and specifically the two preceding songs. Reflection, motivation, action – I believe that is the narrative this three-pack tries to tell.
Rainmaker – strong, not too subtle lyrics, refreshingly different musical approach reminiscent of The Rising (the album). My only beef with this is the overly elongated „rainmakerrrrrrrr“. Not sure what he was going for here.
Priest – this is amazing. Lyrics are hilarious and the recording is just brilliant.
Ghosts - my favorite. Sounds like Stevie and Bruce told Aniello to go get fries from Mickey D’s and stay the fuck out of this song. This is so much fun and, apart from Janey, the most classic-sounding song on the record - it’s got everything a great Springsteen/ESB song needs – heartfelt lyrics, a rousing chorus, count-ins, sax, piano, guitar…and just lots of FUN! If this is not an instant classic, I don’t know what is.
Orphans: I’ve always loved this song and this version is great, but the 2005 acoustic version is the absolute gold standard to my ears. Full band works fine, but maybe arrange it as a real ballad (something the record does not have) in the pace of the 2005 version. The third decision I that kind of steals some potential from the song. Lyrically, it sets up the end. He’s looking back on his bar-band, hand-to-mouth days and those left behind by the wayside before he closes with
Dreams – nice enough song, but a tad schmaltzy, sounds like it could have been on WOAD. Wonder if that last „I’ll see you in my dreams“ holds any special significance…however, I gotta say this doesn’t hit me emotionally, even though it is the perfectly logical closer.
All in all, I really do enjoy the record…it sounds like Bruce and the E Street Band sound today. When people refer to the „classic E Street sound“, they typically refer to BTR, Darkness and maybe The River, and there are elements of all them. We do have the Wall of Sound, there’s a certain rawness and also the live element that, for instance, defines The River. But, people, he has already written those three records. He will never try to copy them, and in fact, no two Bruce Springsteen albums have ever sounded the same. Lots of time has passed, and you can hear a lot of influences that have shaped Bruce and the current ESB over the past 4 decades. So yeah, it does capture E Street – but not what appears to be its constructed imagination and, I would argue, semi-fictional version that lots of people seem to be yearning for.
As I said in the beginning, it is a strong late-career album, but I firmly believe his late-career masterpiece is Western Stars. That one will be hard to top.
I would give this one about 8 out of 10 points (for reference, Magic and WS are 9 out of 10)