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Album Review: Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

3 min read

After the success of the past four decades in the business, fans had high hopes (pun intended) for The Boss’ newest album. A collection of covers, previously unfinished tracks, reworked classics and bits and pieces that never quite fit into previous albums, High Hopes is a treat for fans as we’re shown some classic Springsteen tracks which deserve to be heard.

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes AlbumEmploying the loyal and legendary E-Street band – along with honorary E-Streeter Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine fame) – Springsteen has been able to complete some unfinished and unreleased material resulting in another successful addition to his impressive discography, clocking the grand total up to 18 records. The man himself considers the album to contain “some of our best unreleased material from the past decade” and the record more than backs him up.

Morello has been a huge influence on High Hopes according to Bruce, who considers him to be his “muse” who pushed the project “to another level”. Anyone who is familiar with Morello’s work knows he can shred a 6-string with the best of them, but High Hopes sees him share the mic with Bruce as they perform a duet version of The Ghost of Tom Joad which Rage Against the Machine famously covered. Morello features heavily on the album, appearing on 8 of the 12 tracks including the re-recorded gem American Skin (41 Shots).

Beginning with the title track High Hopes –originally by Tim Scott McConnell of The Havalinas – the energy is high. Bruce’s rough voice in the soulful, bluesy number is complemented by the many instrument-wielding members of the E Street band, producing a well-rounded, exciting start to the record.

Next up is Harry’s Place, a darker sounding track which originated with 2002’s The Rising but didn’t make the final cut to the album. Full of Bruce’s classic storytelling imagery, the song is completed with Morello’s stunning guitar work and the saxophone skills of none other than Clarence Clemons.

Bruce plays with different tones on High Hopes – weaving the darker, more melancholy sounds of songs like American Skin (41 Shots) and Down in the Hole, with the brighter, more energetic songs like Just Like Fire Would and Heaven’s Wall.

Frankie Fell in Love is a refreshing and playful tune in the middle of the album – a perfect centrepiece showing off the poppy, cheerful side of Bruce & the E Street Band. Lingering as an unfinished demo since being cut from 2007’s album Magic, the song has found its place on High Hopes and is one of the most memorable and stand-out tracks from the record.

A couple of gentle, traditional E-Street band sounding tracks appear in the form of This is Your Sword and Hunter of Invisible Game – the latter feeling as though it could have come straight off 2012’s Wrecking Ball album.

The re-worked version of The Ghost of Tom Joad provides the song with the studio version it deserves, giving it new life and transforming it into one of the best songs on the album. Morello is outstanding on guitar as well as sharing vocal duties with Bruce.

The album is finished with the simple and touching ballad The Wall and a cover of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream. The Wall has demanded a finished studio version since its live debut in 2003, as the subject matter (written about musicians and personal friends of Bruce who never returned home from Vietnam) is clearly important and dear to Springsteen.  The subdued instrumentals in the song allow Bruce’s voice and lyrics to be the focal point, which is important for such a meaningful track.

Described by Springsteen as “music I always felt needed to be released”, High Hopes provides a home for some of Bruce’s songs which had previously only been recorded live or been otherwise unfinished. The addition of Tom Morello strengthens the record through both his musical presence and the directions he encouraged Bruce to take.