If you had the opportunity to catch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on their triumphant Wrecking Ball Tour in 2012/2013, you’ll recall that one of the show’s highlights was the reworking of the 2002 The Rising track “My City Of Ruins”. Springsteen turned the track – originally written about the deterioration and abandonment of his home town in Asbury Park, NJ and later adopted as a song of hope and faith following the 911 attacks – into a moving gospel performance where he introduced the band on stage as well as the ‘ghosts’ who were missing from the stage. Fallen members of the E Street band no longer with us were remembered and the audience was asked to think about their own missing ghosts.
In a way, Bruce Springsteen is revisiting some of these old ghosts with the release of his latest studio album, High Hopes. The album features performances by deceased E Street Band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici on tracks dating as far back as the mid-1990’s. It must be nice to have a tickle-trunk of idle music to mine from as deep as the material Springsteen had to work through in putting together his 18th album. The album features a collection of tracks culled from outtakes, covers and do-overs of songs written over the past decade. Whether these songs didn’t fit thematically or sonically with the vibe Springsteen was going for on recent standout albums like The Rising (2002), Magic (2007) or Wrecking Ball (2012), The Boss felt he had the makings of a meaningful album with these once orphaned tracks.
High Hopes is far from perfect and isn’t really the type of Springsteen record you need to listen to cover-to-cover as it’s fairly disjointed. Unlike Springsteen’s other recent ‘between albums’ (Devils And Dust, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions and Working On A Dream) this latest effort lacks a specific theme lyrically or musically, yet somehow it all works. The interesting part for me is listening to these songs and trying to figure out which album they were originally destined for and then wondering why they didn’t make the cut.
Highlights on this record include revised versions of two older tracks from the mid/late 1990’s that now feature the signature sound of Rage Against The Machine guitarist and Springsteen fanatic Tom Morello. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” goes from acoustic folk song to a lushly produced rock and roll anthem while “American Skin (41 Shots)” and its anti-gun message is unfortunately as relevant ever following recent gun-related tragedies in the United States. Still, it’s album closer “Dream Baby Dream” that seems to capture where Springsteen’s head is at these days: ‘Gotta keep the light burning…come on we gotta keep the fire burning…come on and Dream Baby Dream…’
Come back tomorrow when we have a chance for you to win a copy of High Hopes.