One of the most anticipated albums of the first quarter, Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream," comes out Jan. 27 and the Boss Machine is in full tilt like I have never seen it. As this excellent article from today's Wall Street Journal point out, Springsteen is surrounding the project with the high level marketing techniques that years ago would have appeared unseemly for an artist of his stature, but now seem absolutely imperative to goose albums sales. First comes the Inaugural concert this Sunday and then the Super Bowl halftime on Feb. 1.

The only part of the campaign I have a problem with is the Wal-Mart greatest hits exclusive. Springsteen, fairly or not, is considered by his fans as the protectorate of the common man and, while the common man may shop at Wal-Mart, the massive retailer's labor practices have hardly made it sympathetic to the people it relies on to keep its doors open. We find it interesting that Springsteen's own website isn't pushing the Wal-Mart title. I don't know what that means, but my hunch is they're doing the exclusive and aren't hiding it, but they aren't touting it either. They also made the greatest hits pretty toothless- there are no previously unreleased tracks on it and the only remotely new track is "Radio Nowhere" from 2007's "Magic." Still, I've been a Bruce fan for more years than I care to count, I've seen him in concert more than 30 times and have been lucky enough to be one of the few journalists to interview him and the Wal-mart move still surprised and disappointed me.

I recommend the WSJ piece, if for nothing else, it shows that even the biggest artists in the world can't sit on their laurels in this economy. Plus-- and I buried the lead--the story hints--and we believe this to be true- that Springsteen and his E Street boys will undertake an arena tour starting in March. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if an announcement comes around the Feb. 1 Super Bowl hoopla.