Springsteen hits home with High Hopes

7 Jan

bruce springsteen_high hopes

Sucker-punch – to hit someone with an unexpected blow, without warning, no time for preparation or defence.

That’s basically it for Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album, High Hopes, being released on 14 January and just ahead of the rocker’s first ever South African shows in a couple of weeks in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Local fans should be salivating since the album went streaming online yesterday (6 January) and they got a titillating taste of what waits just around the corner.

Why the notion that High Hopes is coming out left field? Because it’s not something that Springsteen has done before in his 40 years as a mega recording artist. The album is comprised of older songs that have been reworked, first time recorded versions of original tracks and covers. And its two covers that top and tail the 12 track album, the title track and “Dream Baby Dream”.

Producer Ron Anielllo is in Springsteen’s corner again for this one, after 2012’s Wrecking Ball. Contributing his magical and manic guitar hands (High Hopes, Harry’s Place, American Skin (41 Shots), Just Like Fire Would, Heaven’s Wall, Hunter of Invisible Game, Dream Baby Dream) as well as vocals (The Ghost of Tom Joad) is Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave fame. Then there’s the entire E Street Band, including the unmistakable sax sounds of the late Clarence Clemons (of whom Springsteen said many moons back “Because the Big Man is backing me up, I play much better than I ever would solo”) and Danny Federici’s organ.

It’s confession time – starting to listen to High Hopes, it was not what was expected, not a typical Springsteen album. Where, since 1973, there’s been a very precise logic and order, a theme, gushing through a myriad of veins as the main artery, the life line that holds everything together. What it undoubtedly is though, is classical Springsteen. Vocals rich in texture and emotion, music clouted in command, as so clearly is reverberating on “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “Down In The Hole”.

You know it ain’t cut and dry and you pay for “everythiiing” but that searing searching is dragging you along on “High Hopes”. The pursuit for the release from the treacheries of life continues with “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. But hold on, ye of little faith, hold on in “Hunter Of Invisible Game”. This is after all a sermon from the pulpit of rock and roll and this preacher is asking you to “Dream Baby Dream”.

The last words on High Hopes should belong to no one else than the man himself.

“This is music I always felt needed to be released.  From the gangsters of “Harry’s Place,” the ill-prepared roomies on “Frankie Fell In Love” (shades of Steve and I bumming together in our Asbury Park apartment) the travelers in the wasteland of “Hunter Of Invisible Game,” to the soldier and his visiting friend in “The Wall”, I felt they all deserved a home and a hearing. Hope you enjoy it.”

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