Western Stars: My Review/Thoughts Song by Song
“Hitch Hikin”:A good song, and not a bad opener for the album. I mean, who doesn’t love it when Bruce shouts “THUMB”. Anyway, something about this song tugs on the heartstrings in a certain way that makes you feel for the character in this song, as he focuses on the little things that give him enjoyment, a la “Dashboard picture of a pretty girl…. I’m riding high on top of the world”. The orchestration is nice, and doesn’t take away too much from the song either, which is a bonus. While I don’t view it as the strongest song on the album, it is a good one.
“The Wayfarer”: Great opening. It hooked me right away. But, after my first listen, I wasn’t sure how to feel, and I’ll be honest, it took me a little while to come back around and actually play the song again. Once I did, it reclaimed its place among yet another good song on the album. I would say the best part of this song comes at the end, whenever we get the backing vocals from Patti. The rhythm of the song, mixed with everything else, creates a convincing concoction, saving this song from eternal damnation for me personally.
“Tucson Train”: I’ve loved this song since it was released as a single. Great beat, great lyrics, and all around a good tune. We do get elements of that great songwriting from Bruce, especially with lines such as “We fought hard over nothing…We fought till nothing remained” and “To that voice that keeps me awake at night…A little peace would make everything right”. The instrumentation on the track is phenomenal, and I often find myself singing this song. Due to all of this, it is easily one of the top tracks on the album.
“Western Stars”: I would argue this is the most cinematic track Bruce has written since Streets of Philadelphia. I could see this in a film, and I think Bruce may have had this in mind. Some strong imagery in the song, especially when we get the line about the coyote with the Chihuahua in its mouth. The character in this song is particularly striking, due to the soul searching they are undergoing. It seems to be a fall from grace, especially due to the credit card commercial they must have done. But, it still gives off hope, in the form of the western stars, and perhaps to a small degree, his El Camino. This track is a magnificent example of a story song, mixed with great writing, easily a top 5 track on the album.
“Sleepy Joe’s Café”: When I first heard this, it kind of time warped me to the Seeger sessions, just due to all of the instrumentation going on in the song. But in my opinion, this song is an absolute bop. On an album not filled with much upbeat songs, or songs that tend to have a happy tone, this is one that delivers, and gives a break from the bleakness that this album may give off, somewhat similar to what Ramrod does with sides 3 and 4 of the River. This is one of my favorite tracks, but some may disagree with this.
“Drive Fast”: I’m not the biggest fan of this song, mostly due to its repetitive nature. Not to say it’s a bad song, but I would have liked to see a little bit more diversity with lyrics, especially when we get the chorus. By no means is it the worst song on the album, but for me, this starts a minor lull in the album. It’s a decent song, and over time it may grow on me, but for now, it remains in the middle of the pack.
“Chasin Wild Horses”:Again, this is part of the lull that I feel in the album when I listen to it. Not bad song, just like its predecessor, but it is not one that I listen to much at all, unless I’m listening to the album on vinyl. The portion of the melody that sounds like “Your Own Worst Enemy” is a great flashback to a great album, but that is the highlight of it for me. The Orchestration does save it a little bit for me however.
“Sundown”: To me, this sounds like a track that should have been on Magic. It’s a good song, but definitely not the strongest on the album. Not a song that I listen to a lot, but it could get increased play in the future. One notable line that sticks out for me is “Sundown ain’t the kind of place you wanna be on your own”. Great line that really makes you think.
“Somewhere North of Nashville”: For me, it feels out of place, both in length and for being on the album. I think it would be suited better on Devils and Dust, or possibly even on a future acoustic album if there is one. I just feel as though it kills any momentum that Sundown builds up. This could change for me overtime, but for now, this is just where I stand, with this song being the worst for me on the album.
“Stones”: Quite the complex song to look at, especially when looking at the lyrics. I love the complexity of the song, and all of the different interpretations that you could take with this one. In a way, gives me a Tunnel of Love album type feel, at least with the themes coming out of this song. Good song, and picks the momentum of the album back up.
“There Goes My Miracle”: Probably should have been on WOAD, but it still has its rightful place on this album. Another upbeat track (although somewhat somber), which is hard to find on this album. I know opinions were fairly split on this one, but I am giving it thumbs up, bringing us up from the “Valentine’s Day-esque uncertainty of “Stones”.
“Hello Sunshine”: A lot of conversation has occurred with this song since it was the first single released, and it is worthy of the talk. Easily one of the best on the album.
“Moonlight Motel”: For me, the best song on the album, and I would argue, his best song written from TOL onward. The story, along with the imagery are absolutely fantastic and it really leaves us feeling sorry for the character in the song. He longs for the days he used to have at this hotel, trying to remember and recapture what he once had, going so far as to return to the abandoned structure. One of the best tracks in Bruce’s catalog, without any hesitation in my mind.
Conclusion: Overall, I would give the album a 4/5. It’s one of his better albums, and for me, challenges Magic as possibly being his best since TOL.
Disclaimer: You do not have to agree with the opinions stated by a 21-year old college student, English and History major, and Bruce fan in this post. Feel free to comment your thoughts.