- Audio CD (April 25 2006)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: DualDisc
- Label: Sony Music Canada Inc.
- ASIN: B000EU1PNC
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD | LP Record
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,990 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions DualDisc
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Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen's twenty-first album,'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions,' on April 25. The album features Bruce's personal interpretations of thirteen traditional songs, all of them associated with the legendary guiding light of American folk music, Pete Seeger, for whom the album is named. Speaking of the origins of the new music, Springsteen said, "So much of my writing, particularly when I write acoustically, comes straight out of the folk tradition. Making this album was creatively liberating because I have a love of all those different roots sounds... they can conjure up a world with just a few notes and a few words."
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Some songs have a gospel undertone, like the classic We Shall Overcome with its soulful backing vocals, Jacob's Ladder with the rousing vocals of its gospel choir and the melancholy Shenandoah which is one of the few highlights. Still I prefer Bob Dylan's version on his album Down In The Groove. Others have a country feel like the authentic-sounding lament My Oklahoma Home with its powerful male backing vocals. Country also surfaces in the uptempo Pay Me My Money Down which is redeemed by an impressive arrangement and instrumental virtuosity. Others are really rock music, like O Mary Don't You Weep with its biblical imagery and the raucous John Henry, a fast-paced song with frisky fiddles and Bruce shouting too loudly.
The slower numbers include the brooding Eyes On The Prize, Mrs McGrath and Erie Canal, a song with lovely banjo that incorporates jazzy improvisations in the instrumental sections. The tracks that I would listen to again are Jesse James, a lilting, energetic story song about the Robin Hood character, and of the aforementioned: Jacob's Ladder for its inspiring gospel voices, the melancholy My Oklahoma Home, Shenandoah with its spiritual undertone and maybe We Shall Overcome. Emblematic of the work as a whole, Froggie Went a Courtin' is the type of folk song that ought to remain restricted to kiddie's records. The video material on the recording, conversations with the musicians and the song videos contribute nothing to ameliorate the disappointment.
Something went wrong somewhere. The wide array of instruments encompasses guitar, sax, banjo, organ, accordion, mandolin, viola, tuba, drums and trumpet, and the playing is mostly enthusiastic. The arrangements aren't always suitable to the song but not bad for the chosen style. Many song segments stand out for the appealing instrumentation. But the arrangements and instrumentation simply do not blend with Bruce's sometimes shouted & sometimes mumbled vocals. Judging by the reviews, this album is clearly enjoyed by multitudes, which I find incomprehensible. Yes, there's no accounting for taste and to each their own, but I am baffled as to why Springsteen fans would even find The Seeger Sessions listenable. Time will tell; history's verdict may be harsh.
Then again, this album is not what you would expect from a Bruce Springsteen album, given that the Boss has never done a cover album before. He has done a few notable covers, from Tom Wait's "Jersey Girl" and Patti Smith's "Because the Night" to "War" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," so it is interesting that Springsteen would suddenly decide to do it for an entire album. Seeger is certainly a legend, and if this album introduces a new generation of fans to his work so much the better. But having watched Springsteen fail (by his standard anyway) with his acoustic albums "Nebraska," "The Ghost of Tom Joad," and "Devils & Dust," it is interesting to see what happens when he takes his acoustic guitar and backs it up a full folk music ensemble recording LIVE, without rehearsals, in three one-day sessions cut in 1997, 2005 and 2006. The irony is that those other acoustic efforts sound more like Seeger's work than this album, because most Seeger recordings are just him playing his banjo. But if you flip the CD over for the DVD side of the disc you can see the recording of some of these tracks and that what you think was going on in the studio from listening to these tracks is just what you see. Plus there are a couple of bonus tracks on the other side, "Buffalo Gals" and "How Can I Keep from Singing."
The background on this 2006 album is that Springsteen was working on putting together a second album of "Tracks," collecting his rarities, when he came across a set of recordings he had made in 1997 for the Seeger tribute album, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger." The only contribution from Springsteen ended up being "We Shall Overcome" on the album which had 39 tracks recorded by everyone from the Weavers and Peter, Paul & Mary to the Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. This inspired Springsteen to record an entire album of folk tunes that Pete Seeger had popularized, and some of the musicians he brought together for this album had played on those sessions back in 1997. The liner notes by Dave Marsh provide a brief introduction on the background of each song. For example, "Old Dan Tucker," is: "An antique fiddle tune, often used for square dances, made famous around 1843 when Dan Emmett, one of the greatest early minstrel singers, wrote a version of these lyrics for his group, the Virginia Minstrels." You have to admire the mix of brevity and detail, which contrasts nicely with the rollickin' good time these musicians have in the studio. I find these songs addictive, and while they are not everybody's cup of tea, they have my toe tappin' through constant replay.
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