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Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Feb 4th, 2014

Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes

high hopesBruce Springsteen
High Hopes
(Columbia)

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Announced only a few weeks before its release, Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album, High Hopes, seems to be more of a Tracks or The Promise type of release rather than a full album like his last, Wrecking Ball. Comprised of a combination of songs that were cut from Magic and The Rising as well as some covers and other re-worked Bruce tunes, we get an album that, while fully enjoyable, doesn’t feel terribly cohesive. But hey, when the Boss releases a surprise album during the dull post-holiday months, you take it and run.

As if the band weren’t big enough at this point, it seems E Street has a new (unofficial) member with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who started playing with the band in Australia when Steven Van Zandt had to miss a couple of shows. “[Tom] has so much creativity, and he became a filter for this material; I ran all of the music through him and he would send it back to me with a very current slant,” Bruce commented recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. Morello adds a good deal of guitar playing to a number of the songs as well. On High Hopes, we get a plugged-in and cranked-up rock version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” featuring not only a wicked guitar solo from Morello, but also vocals. Though Morello’s vocals certainly aren’t bad, they pale in comparison to Springsteen’s grit and passion.

As for the cover songs on the record, we get Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” a minimalistic crooner that Bruce played live during his Devils + Dust tour. “Just Like Fire Would,” a poptacular jam originally by Australian punk band The Saints, adds a lot of fun to the record, as does “Frankie Fell In Love,” which was originally cut for Magic.

We’re also finally given an official studio recording of “American Skin (41 Shots),” which Bruce has been performing since the late ‘90s. The song, which was originally written after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, was revived last year after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Though this studio album is excellent, I’m not sure it is quite as good as the live version from the Live in New York City record Bruce released in 2001. In regard to “Land of Hope and Dreams,” another song whose live version was popular among fans long before the studio version, Bruce commented in a recent interview with E Street Radio that, “After you play something live for a long time, it’s very very hard to top any E Street Band live recordings of any of those songs.” Truth.

Taken individually, these are some excellent new songs that seemingly popped out of nowhere. And perhaps if we’re lucky, the rumors will be true and some additional New York City tour dates will pop out of nowhere in support of the record too!

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Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes