- 11 Nov 19
Shining Bright Again
Having decided not to tour the record, Springsteen called in film maker of choice, Thom Zimny, a graduate of The Wire who has worked with The Boss as far back as 2001’s Live In New York City, to help put together Western Stars the movie. Shot over a couple of days in Springsteen’s barn (“Barn In The USA” ©Stuart Clark), it presents the album, played in sequence, interspersed with Bruce’s sombre voiced-over reflections. It’s a thing of beauty altogether, a widescreen, cinemascope wonder that John Ford would have been proud of, and to hear those arrangements presented in tandem with such breath-taking imagery is a privilege art all too rarely affords.
Western Stars is a record that in time will be regarded alongside Springsteen's immortal seventies classics, it might even form a suitable set of bookends when paired with the youthful, who-gives-a-monkey’s-let’s-live joy of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, but, devoid of the visuals, is a live version of the album really warranted so soon after the original’s release?
Well, yes. ‘Western Stars’, ‘Chasin’ Wild Horses’, and the now even more Nebraskan ‘Somewhere North Of Nashville’ - among the finest songs this giant has ever written - are welcome in any form, and the version of Larry Weiss’ ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, which sports a lyric that would have slotted easily onto the parent record, is raggedly rousing. There’s some nice additions like the piano solo in ‘The Wayfarer’, and ‘Sleepy Joe’s Café’ improves on the original, the accordion and fiddle adding to the hoedownic flavour, no surprise really given the location. It’s the presence of Patti Scialfa on ‘Stones’, where she edges her husband to one side to assume equal billing, that takes the medals though, and their harmony on the “kids and bills” line in ‘Memory Motel’ is the sound of two people saying, yeah, raising a family and staying together is hard, but it’s worth it.
This recording won’t ever replace the original - and it really needs to be experienced with the film, on the largest screen available, with a sound system to match - but it’s no less essential for all that.