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Snap Judgment: Bruce Springsteen's 'Working On a Dream'

November 24, 2008 |  4:02 pm

Possibly the single most telling thing about this sweetly uplifting first offering and title track from Bruce Springsteen's new album, due Jan. 27, isn't the reality-rooted optimism of the lyrics or even the stately, sweeping classic rock music, but a brief musical interlude between verses.

What would typically offer room for a scorching guitar solo or blistering sax contribution from Clarence Clemons instead has a passage that is whistled. When was the last time life in these United States gave Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band reason to whistle?

    The sunrise come, I climb the ladder
    The new day breaks and I'm working on a dream

Not surprisingly, the new-day-dawning number was introduced to the public during a Barack Obama rally just before the election. (The recording by the Super Bowl-bound rocker got a partial airing on Nov. 16 during the broadcast of an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, as part of a halftime highlights package, and it's also available as a free download today, Nov. 24, at Springsteen's web site.)

When he reaches that verse, more than halfway through the chiming rock tune, it's the most chipper he's sounded in ages. But in the lead-up to it, telegraphed musically by those always heart-rending suspended-fourth chords that open the track, Springsteen acknowledges the struggle that won't magically disappear even with a new leader, even when it's one of whom he approves.

There isn't any overt political bent to the song, but the celebratory message is hard to miss. Brendan O'Brien's ringing production is refreshingly clear, especially on the heels of the distressing sonic muddiness that seriously compromised the appeal of last year's "Magic" album, which O'Brien also produced.

     I'm working on a dream
    Though trouble can feel like it's here to stay
    I'm working on a dream
    Our love will chase the trouble away

Springsteen sounds a hopeful note, for his fans, and Americans in general.

--Randy Lewis

Bruce Springsteen
"Working on a Dream"
*** (3 stars)

Photo: Associated Press