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Bruce Springsteen

Much has been said about how rocker laureate Bruce Springsteen's new CD, The Rising, is his 9/11 album. Such oversimplification does a disservice to this superb 15-song collection, one of the finest works of the artist's three-decade career.

The Rising confronts timeless issues such as fear, separation, terror, tragedy, hope, love and redemption. Certainly it is intended as a balm to the wounded and the widowed. But always have they been with us.

The world already was growing bleak before the attacks a year ago. And hope and faith would have been called for even without the brutal context with which we have lived since then. As any great poet might, Springsteen sensed the changing wind--word is that he had written the chilling "My City of Ruins" before Sept. 11.

Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you'll know that Springsteen re-gathered his legendary E Street Band for the album, and the players sound as vital as on, say Darkness at the Edge of Town or The River. And they enthusiastically gang up for inspirational, wall-of-sound-style anthems such as the title track.

With the help of producer Brendan O'Brien, Springsteen adds a few new twists to his music. Pakistani qawwali singers pop up in "Worlds Apart." Cellos, hurdy gurdy, glockenspiel all add to the mix. "The Fuse" rides on an atypically electronic rhythm track.

Springsteen explores his famous love for classic soul and R&B. The sweet Motown style of "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)" is deceptively carefree. And he pays homage to Sam Cooke in "Mary's Place," a party-hearty rave-up that borrows the chorus and title of Cooke's "Meet Me at Mary's Place" and adds some beautiful pan-religious imagery.

Direct references to the events of Sept. 11 occasionally are here, such as this couplet from "You're Missing": "Devil's in the mailbox / I got dust on my shoes." But most of the time--and notably unlike Neil Young's jingoistic "Let's Roll"--these songs refer only tangentially to the terrorist attacks.

More importantly, they strive toward healing, such as "Into the Fire," which revolves around the mantra "May your strength give us strength / May your faith give us faith / May your hope give us hope / May your love bring us love."

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