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Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (Columbia) 

Wrecking Ball is a stew of sounds and ideas from Bruce Springsteen, now a rock and folk elder with the instincts to see the power of unity in both people and music.

Rock, bluegrass, gospel, brass, Irish folk, the rowdy acoustic stomp of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions band and even some light electronica/hip-hop beats all tumble together under the aggressive yet watchful eye of Springsteen and producer Ron Aniello. It's an impressive balance of the contemporary and the traditional, enthusiastic and fresh without leaving behind the Boss' immediately identifiable working-class rock 'n' roll.

"We Take Care of Our Own" kicks off the record as a powerful introduction of the urgent political themes coursing through Wrecking Ball. It's Bruce saying this is OUR country, dammit, and it's not right unless we remember we're all in it together. Touching on the sins of abandonment following Hurricane Katrina, he ties together the central theme of the Occupy movement with a Golden Rule sort of patriotism.

Musicians include Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, longtime E Street collaborators the Miami Horns, folk/bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, and the New York Chamber Consort, with limited contributions from Max Weinberg, Steven Van Zandt and what's likely the final recording from the late, great Clarence Clemons. Yeah, it's a big sound.

A new Springsteen album will inevitably enter the charts at No. 1, so it's a thrill to see him harness new inspiration and get down to the business of being The Boss—giving us all a reason to believe, yet again.

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