Bruce Springsteen

Magic (Columbia)

Phases & Stages

Bruce Springsteen

Magic (Columbia)

Touted as the first E Street Band album in five years, Magic casts off the solemnity of 2002's The Rising for the top-down rush of "Radio Nowhere." Kick-off and canonical bull's-eye, its "I just want to hear some rhythm" chant strips Magic free of pretense. Hop on, strap in. Producer Brendan O'Brien grunges a muddy mix as opposed to the diamond cut of 2005's Devils & Dust, continuing his Bossman's studio condescension of Clarence Clemons & Co. following 1984's Born in the U.S.A. Perfunctory piano, organ, and sax breaks on pure E Streeter "Livin' in the Future" undercut the song, same as Springsteen's teen-mode lyric on "Girls in Their Summer Clothes." The mandolin-laced title track's legit, but rocker "Last to Die" lacks the sheer hootenanny of last year's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Near misses ("Your Own Worst Enemy"), retreads ("Gypsy Biker"), and Clemons-challenged ramblers ("Long Walk Home") prompt few curtain calls. Magic still, mundane, too.

**

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