"It takes a joyful sound to make the world go round" (Punky Reggae Party - Bob Marley & The Wailers)
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Monday, 30 December 2013
Bruce Springsteen High Hopes (January 2014)
Over the weekend Amazon in the U.S. "accidently" released Springsteen's eighteenth studio album, 'High Hopes', for download. They saw their error but not before it went viral and was uploaded to torrent sites etc. I guess someone has a lot of explaining to do this Monday and probably will be looking for a new job tomorrow morning. It was interesting yesterday seeing what the reaction to the album was on various fan sites and pages on Facebook. Views seemed to range from totally loving it to a down right loathing of it! The ones holding the latter viewpoint have in my mind gone just a little over the top. Yes there are questions to be asked of it, and yes it is a collection of songs "left over" from previous sessions, and re-recordings of things already released, and shock horror three Cover Versions!! But does that mean that we should totally dismiss it? Personally, I think not! I read with interest the review of it in the Daily Telegraph by Neil McCormick:
"There’s a lot of great stuff on here, but it doesn’t
hold together and doesn’t come close to being one of Springsteen’s great
Even in his assessment of each song he's pretty dismissive of a number of tracks, in particular those that focus on faith. But Bruce has often had many a song regarding faith and response to belief and as someone who was brought up as Catholic he often admits that it's something that's hard to escape. So, just because a person holds such beliefs is right then for us to dismiss him? Not so, if we do then we are not as tolerant as we seem to think we are!
The other thing I'll say in passing regarding Mr McCormick is that he actually rated albums by One Direction and Beyonce better (he gave Springsteen only 3 out 5!), and therefore me and Mr McCormick part ways!
Okay, enough of that, so what do I think of it?
Well I listened to it twice through Saturday night and was actually quite pleased. So, it might not fit together in the sense of telling a story, but I was under the impression it wasn't a Concept Album thus laying waste to the charge that the songs seem like a jumbled mess.
After a couple of listens the tracks I thought the standout are 'High Hopes', yes, it's a re-record of a B-side done for the 'Blood Brothers' EP in 1996 and it's a cover version, but it's actually a great wee tune. Hope is something that flows through a lot of Springsteen's music and in an age when there's a lot of darkness, discouragement, poverty and brokeness around a little light is always a welcome thing. The cover of The Saints' 'Like Fire Would' is another I particulary like. I was surprised when they played this on the Aussie tour earlier this year because it was very unexpected. The studio version sounds brilliant with the E Street Horns adding their magic touch to it. Chris Bailey of The Saints is gonna get a nice windfall due to its inclusion on the album. The new studio version of 'American Skin (41 Shots)' is quite interesting as well but it seems to have lost a bit of the anger and edge of the live version (that's always going to happen, no matter what the song is). The rest of the songs are okay, and I can see that a number of them are going to work well in a live setting ('Heaven's Wall' especially), though 'Harry's Place' is not to my liking at all. Along with Bruce and the E Street Band on the album is Tom Morello (who appears on eight tracks) and the super-charged re-recording of 'The Ghost of Old Tom Joad' is real quality. Live performances of it were stunning, especially down in Australia earlier in the year. It's no wonder that on off days that Bruce took Tom and the E Street Band into the Studio to record. They sounded great together. Quite a lot of 'High Hopes' was recorded then. The album ends on a high note with the brilliant cover version of 'Dream Baby Dream' by Suicide. He first played it on the 'Devil's and Dust Tour' back in 2005 and recently released a video of it as a thank you to the fans who had supported the 'Wrecking Ball Tour'. The album gets 8 out of 10 for me. I know one thing, this album will be played a lot more than 'Working on a Dream' (which I was really disappointed with) and whilst it's not as brilliant as its predecessor, 'Wrecking Ball', I think there's enough on it to please a majority of the fans (though of course you can't please all the people all the time!).