Bruce Springsteen “High Hopes” Review

(Photo Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)

The Boss’s legacy continues, with an uneven but often impactful collaborative record.

It’s safe to say that Bruce Springsteen has outlived classic rock. The few contemporaries that are even still recording have fallen by the wayside – U2 and Tom Petty seem to have disappeared, Rod Stewart’s sticking to covers, and Billy Joel hasn’t released music in years. It’s seemingly down to Bruce, McCartney and Elton, and Bruce is still playing three hour shows. “High Hopes” is an energetic album, both in music and in spirit. There’s little new going on, besides some interesting percussion work, but it is definitively Bruce.

One important thing to note about the album is that guitarist Tom Morello shows up on eight of the album’s twelve songs. Morello, well-known for protest rap-rock group Rage Against the Machine, seems like an odd choice. But the two share similar idologies and it’s a natural fit. They even recreate the live version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” from 2010 – which is still one of the greatest live performances I’ve ever seen. Morello co-sings lead on “Joad,” and his voice matches the song’s haunting tone perfectly (RATM covered the song themselves back in 2001).

The album has some throwaway moments, but it makes the standout moments seem even more so. The title track opens the album, with a booming percussion back and pounding energy. It’s refreshing to hear that Springsteen can still easily pack a punch, eighteen albums in. “American Skin” is a long, intense song with an excellent Morello spot. “Heaven’s Wall” has a bit of a gospel feel (and features back up vocals from three younger Springsteens), and “Hunter of Invisible Game” is a very Dylanesque tune.

“High Hopes” has a collaborative feel. The E Street Band is usually pretty collective, but there’s extra contributions here. Drummer Josh Freese guests on one song, and there are appearances from Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, two members who have recently passed on. The collective effect happens because the album was thought of and recorded when the band was still on the tour for their last, “Wrecking Ball.” Seven of the twelve songs are original, three are covers, and three are re-recordings of older songs (Note: No, that math doesn’t add up. The title track is a re-recording of a song Bruce covered in 1995).

Springsteen fans will probably love the album – its weaker tracks sound just like album tracks from decades past. The album is better when it gets more original, but it is never weak. It acts like a collection, even if it is a proper album, and it allows for a little more freedom. “High Hopes” doesn’t hold up against the Boss’s best albums, but it’s another great addition in a pretty much entirely great discography.

Grade: B+

-By Andrew McNally

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