Rhythm & Views

Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band

You can't fully appreciate the magnificence of this two-CD recording until you've viewed the accompanying DVD. There, you can see how Springsteen has amassed a small army of singers and players--18 in all, and never do you get the sense of any overkill, duplication or wasted effort. Even more remarkable: Save for the occasional pedal steel and electric organ, this is essentially an acoustic band, complete with banjo, two violins, lots of singers and acoustic guitars and--get this--a kick-ass Dixieland horn section.

The concert is billed as "Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band," referring to last year's Seeger Sessions recording. That rollicking take on traditional Americana, quietly championed by Pete Seeger, showed a side of Springsteen some might read as a post-election hangover. Few folkies have been more political than Seeger, yet there is nary a hint of protest therein. Politics, however, have been supplanted here by something perhaps more powerful--an exuberance that screams, "Screw the bastards; we're here to celebrate music and life, no matter what they try and do to us."

In addition to songs from the first Sessions CD, the CD includes songs Springsteen has completely reinvented, including "Growin' Up," "Blinded by the Light," "Open All Night" and an "Atlantic City" that is riveting as an opener.

Springsteen's acoustic guitar, often underappreciated, is crisp, and he is clearly leading the troops. He also employs an endless supply of vocal affectations, not all of which work. But when the horns kick in with the violins, accordion and everything else, who really cares?

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