Acoustic Live

Nils Lofgren

The Right Stuff / Capitol Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If I say the name Nils Lofgren, what picture does that form in your head?

If you're just a casual rock fan, you'll remember Lofgren as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. (I fell in to this category, by the way - never really followed his solo career.) If you've done your homework, you'll remember Lofgren's stints with Crazy Horse and Grin, as well as his solo career that took off again after Springsteen dissolved the E-Street Band.

However, Lofgren seems to be ready to become the leader of the next generation of story-telling songwriters, as evidenced on his new album Acoustic Live. While it sometimes is a lot to swallow in one sitting, it is one of the most beautiful albums I've heard all year.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Featuring mostly an army of acoustic guitars (provided by Lofgren, his brothers Tom, Michael and Mark, and Paul Bell) and some keyboards from brother Tom, Lofgren powers through 17 tracks recorded in January 1997. Not being a big follower of his career, I honestly don't know if all these are new songs or if this is a greatest hits-live package - but if all the material is this good, who cares either way?

Lofgren sings a lot about love and the processes of growing up (his relationship with his daughter on "Little On Up" - a song that almost had me in tears, the loss of a childhood friend on "Man In The Moon"), and never gets too preachy about what he sings. Balanced by the guitar work (some of which is simply magnificent), Lofgren seems to know where the right point is to stop singing and let the message sink in - smart move.

The musicianship alone is worth the hour-plus it takes to get through Acoustic Live; check out the singing guitar line on "Some Must Dream," a rhythm pattern I could have listened to the whole disc. The sounds this disc contain are simply magical, and must be experienced.

The only drawback to the album is that things tend to start blending together around the midpoint of the disc. If you're not carefully paying attention, you might allow tracks like "Believe," "Black Books" and "To Your Heart" to kind of mesh into one that your ears hear. That does those songs - and the album - an injustice, but I honestly don't know how Lofgren could have fixed this. Likewise, the album's ending tracks, "Mud In Your Eye" and "No Mercy," don't hold up quite as well as some of the more powerful material.

The question must then be posed: What will Acoustic Live do for Lofgren? I think it will accomplish two things: First, it will establish him as a powerful singer/songwriter who can tell a story unlike many others in his genre. Second, if people give this disc a chance and listen to a few tracks, it should win him over a plethora of new fans. (I know I'll be picking up some of his older works as a result of listening to this disc.)

Acoustic Live is an album that Lofgren has probably waited his whole career to produce - and the end result shows the wait was well worth it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


I was a fan of Nils Lofgren back in the late 1970s, but only discovered this album a couple of months ago. I'm glad I did. I agree with the reviewer that his guitar playing is magnificent. My favourite tracks at the moment are 'Tears on ice' and 'Black books', but I am sure there will be others when I have listened to it to more. The album has encouraged me to re-listen to some of his other music and has reminded me that he deserves to be remembered for much more than being Springsteen's guitarist.

© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Right Stuff / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.