A new Bruce Springsteen release is almost always followed by a moving and delightful listening experience. High Hopes, his latest, is no different in regards to that.
Although, there is one thing different about the Boss’s newest album – it is made up not of new material, but of covers, new renditions of old songs and studio outtakes.
The album does not lack for conviction or quality but is not quite the cohesive collection we are used to hearing from Springsteen. This, however, takes a back seat to the pure ease with which I bobbed my head and snapped my fingers to every song. I will wager that those who have an appreciation for Springsteen’s previous work will feel the same.
Ironically, this album of covers and outtakes has the most refreshing sound for Bruce and his E-Street Band in quite a while. Guitarist Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine fame, contributes on eight of the twelve tracks. Morello’s wild and screeching guitar style may not be the most obvious choice to accompany this down-to-earth rock group but Morello, 49, brings an edge and a touch of youth that has been well welcomed by fans and critics.
Springsteen, 64, has kept many songs in the vault over the years, feeling that the time was not right to release them or that they needed a new approach. His decision to return to this material was partially influenced by the addition of Morello.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Springsteen explained, “He really allowed me to tie it all together in a way that I’ve been looking for that I hadn’t found. He just really brought that stuff to life.”
The album kicks off with a cover – the title track, “High Hopes.”
“...Tom came into our touring picture and suggested an obscure B-side from a band I loved back when I lived in Los Angeles in the ‘90s, the Havalinas,” Springsteen said in the same Rolling Stone interview. It has a jazzy, New Orleans swing built on a tight, punchy horn section and is one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Other notable tracks include: “Frankie Fell in Love,” an upbeat love tune with quirky lyrics, “Harry’s Place,” his take of the George W. Bush administration, “The Wall,” a somber telling of a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall to remember old friends and “Hunter of Invisible Game,” an acoustic ballad which invokes a 1970s era Bob Dylan.
The clear climax is the old Springsteen staple “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” With a stirring vocal performance and guitar solos from Morello that give credence to why he was brought on board, this rendition gives the song the power it always deserved.
High Hopes is Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album and marks over five decades of making music. And, like his previous records, this new jewel gives us all high hopes for the future of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.