At the end of 1989, then Bruce Springsteen broke up The E Street Band, it had been more than five years since their last album. The bandmaster laid out Tunnel of love in 1987, but few members of his longtime group backed him on the reflective album.
Even fewer helped out on his doomed pair of 1992 LPs, Human touch and Lucky Town.
But in 1995 everyone was back in the studio again to get some new songs on one Greatest hits package. Within four years, Springsteen and the E Street Band were on the Reunion Tour, which played more than 130 shows over 15 months. The race was documented in the 2001s Lives in New York Citywhich outsold 1995’s solo The Ghost of Tom JoadSpringsteen’s only album since the 1992 duo.
So when it came time to make his first album with the E Street Band since 1984’s commercial juggernaut Born in the USA, Springsteen had long since fallen back into a familiar and comfortable groove with the group. Sessions for a new record began in March 2001, nine months after the tour ended, but then the events of Sept. 11 changed both the course of history and the direction the new music would take.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’
When the album, finally the title The Rising, was released on July 30, 2002, and its 15 songs stemmed from a brief two-month stint earlier in the year at Atlanta’s Southern Tracks Recording Studio with producer Brendan O’Brien, who had never worked with Springsteen and the E Street Band before. His presence had some significance in pushing the normally fastidious Kapellmeister along, but so did the timeliness of the material.
Although almost half of the songs were written before 9/11, The Rising has become inseparable from the day. From the opening “Lonesome Day” to “World’s Apart” to the mournful “You’re Missing”, the themes of loss and heartbreak and the struggle to move on permeated the album. Even the previously composed songs — like “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and “Countin’ on a Miracle,” and even one dating back to 1994 — took on new meaning after the tragedy.
But The Rising is not an album of defeat or sadness. The E Street Band sound not only revitalized by the surroundings, but strengthened by it. There’s a pain in some of these songs—especially Springsteen’s sympathetic voice in “You’re Missing” and “My City of Ruins.” But there’s also a lift in cuts like “Mary’s Place” and the title track, a confirmation that a bit of their collective spirit was lost in the years since they last recorded together.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My City of Ruins’
At its center, The Rising is an album about 9/11. But it’s also about getting the old band back together. And make decisions to reconcile the rocky past with an uncertain future. These themes are not dissimilar. “Can’t see anything in front of me / Can’t see anything coming up behind,” Springsteen sings in “The Rising,” before giving way to one of his biggest choruses in a career littered with them.
The Rising arrived at the right time but it was planned that way. In contrast to the misinterpreted patriotism of “Born in the USA,” a proud American heart beats throughout The Rising. It’s there as the undercurrent in songs like “Lonesome Day” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” offering hope in the ashes of tragedy, and it’s there in the gospel-like resilience of “The Rising.”
The Rising debuted at No. 1, Springsteen’s first studio record to hit the top since Tunnel of love. It marked a comeback for him, and equally for the E Street Band. (That Ghost by Tom Joad was the first Springsteen album to miss the Top 10 since The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle in 1973.) A week or so after the album’s release, Springsteen and the group launched a three-leg, 14-month tour that also included appearances at Saturday Night Live and Late night with David Letterman. The Rising eventually went double platinum.
Years later, the album stands as one of the most direct in Springsteen’s catalog. And despite its loose origins, it is one of his most thematic. It didn’t start out that way, but after the triumphant return of Springsteen and the E Street Band to the scene a few years earlier, the pieces fell together in the wake of the disorder and found a new, more universal meaning. The Rising began as one story but ended as another. And in the process became a definitive musical word about the fall and rise of the human spirit.
Bruce Springsteen Albums Ranked
With so many albums, where do you begin? Check out the following list of Bruce Springsteen albums, ranked from worst to best.
Why Bruce Springsteen Called Killers Collaboration ‘Cathartic’