The Rising may audibly be the work of the band that made The River and Born in the U.S.A., but it is also an album of the 21st century. Such a combination of the familiar and the contemporary is appropriate to the album's contents. One may speculate what sort of album Springsteen would have made if the September 11 terrorist attacks had not taken place; when they did, he seems to have understood immediately that his unique position as a veteran East Coast-based singer/songwriter whose work has always addressed the concerns of his generation obligated him to treat the subject of the disaster in his music. Before September 11, Springsteen was the bard not only of the kind of working-class people who make up the uniformed services, but also, oddly enough, of the upper-class stockbroker types who filled the higher floors of the World Trade Center. These twin constituencies took the hit on September 11, and Springsteen could no more ignore the event than Picasso could have avoided painting Guernica. Such a reference is not idly made, either. As an artist, Springsteen possesses both the gravitas and the understanding of the issues necessary to turn The Rising into a cathartic experience for his listeners. He does not flinch from evoking the catastrophe, singing in the voices of those who died and of those who survived, but were traumatized. Nor does he hesitate to transform the anguish of the tragedy into anthemic, uplifting choruses that proclaim a determination to recover. In the past, the depth of despair expressed in some of Springsteen's songs sometimes may have seemed exaggerated, just as those marathon concerts could make you suspect, somewhere in the fourth hour, that he kept playing because he couldn't figure out how to stop. But on The Rising (which clocks in at 73 minutes), he has a subject that justifies his tendencies toward length and seriousness, and does it justice. The Rising is an album for Springsteen's region, where it has come to seem that everyone knows someone who died on September 11, and it is an album for his nation, which continues to try to understand the tragedy and to learn and recover from it.
William Ruhlmann, Rovi