Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: High Hopes
Release Date: January 14th 2014
There are those amongst us who may whisper the blasphemous words “Isn’t Bruce getting on a bit?”. After 18 studio albums, and 9 live albums amongst other releases, you can see why people may utter these words. If you are one of those people, then it is worth your time to scout out The Boss’ latest album High Hopes, which was officially released yesterday. If you are not one of those people, then perhaps you may have already heard the album, and wonder how he could keep adding songs to a 3-hour live set. Let us know in the comments section.
Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen
Before we talk about High Hopes in more depth, there are a few things that we must go through first. Following the recent death of Clarence Clemons (Saxophone) in 2011, and the death of ‘Phantom Dan’ or Danny Federici (Organs/Glockenspiel/Accordion) in 2008, Springsteen and The E Street Band have found it fitting to include posthumous contributions from both members. With the expert co-production from Ron Aniello and Brendan O’Brien, you could just imagine Clarence and Danny in the studio with Bruce and The E Street Band.
The new album can be best described as a collection of cover songs, cast-offs from previous albums and re-worked versions of songs from Springsteen’s 41 year career. Most excitingly, a majority of the album’s reworked songs come from the collaborative minds of Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello. I know what you’re thinking, it’s a pairing almost too unbelievable to be true.
This was a relationship that began whilst Morello sat in for Steven Van Zandt whilst he was recording Lillyhammer. From this tour, the pair got into some interesting conversations about songs to be cut for the new album. One of those songs that will really raise some eyebrows is The Ghost of Tom Joad. This is a song that was originally released in 1995 on the eponymous album, though back in 1995 this was just an acoustic version of the song. On High Hopes the song takes whole new form with obvious influence from Morello’s rockier playing.
Tom Morello and Bruce Springsteen
What’s most notable for a Springsteen song is the intense solos, although it may be true that Springsteen, Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt have worked through albums with solos on before, as soon as you hear the solo on The Ghost of Tom Joad it’s almost as if you’ve never heard a solo before. The track also features vocal support from Morello, in a similar fashion to the work he did with his solo project The Nightwatchman. In many ways it’s nice to hear Morello play without Rage Against the Machine as he loses all the stigma of sociopolitical activism and he’s not expected to turn his guitar into a turntable or a weapon of Satan, instead he can just play freely as you may expect from a more rock and roll guitarist, but that’s not to say he’s lost any of his unconventional style.
Another notable song from the album is Harry’s Place which Bruce wrote to be reminiscent of the years Bush was in power in the USA. Over the years Springsteen has been gracing our radios with music, there have only ever been 6 or 7 songs out of an excess of 100 songs containing swear words or profanities. High Hopes is the album that I’ve heard the most profanities on a single record from Bruce, using the ‘F’ word three times in Harry’s Place. For those of you who aren’t Springsteen listeners, this may not seem like a big deal but I assure you, the Guinness Book of World Records may want to hear about this.
All jokes aside, this song was a song written 14 years ago following the murder or Trayvon Martin a 17-year-old shot by a member of The Neighborhood Watch. As you can imagine, it is a very dark and emotive song, there are elements of the 1980′s returning in this song with a low wobble on the guitar over gruff lyrics.
I also mentioned that there were cover songs on this release. These come in the form of Dream Baby Dream a cover of Suicide’s 1979 song, and Just Like Fire Would the 1986 song by The Saints, a band who Springsteen has referred to as one of his favourites. Unfortunately these are the weaker and more ‘skippable’ songs from the album, seeming that Springsteen loses quality when re-doing another artist’s song.
Overall, the album is a definite must-buy from me, and the band sound as fresh and vigorous as they have always been, if not better. Make sure you get yourself a copy and listen to Hunter of Invisible Game, The Ghost of Tom Joad and The Wall.
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