26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This is one of Springsteens best albums. It is in the same vein as 'Nebraska' and has echos of 'Devils and Dust' to come. It is supremely chilled out and very relaxing to listen to, his voice perfectly pitched to tell the stories in each song. This album contains such gems as the title track, 'Youngstown', 'Dry lightning' and 'Best wasn't good enough' to end the album on a perfect note. I tend to feel that the album is best listened to in it's entirety to get the full benefit from it though. This is Springsteen doing what he does best, which is telling a beautiful story, backed by great music, simple as that. Don't buy it expecting the Stadium anthems of the 80's, but do expect some of the best music that Bruce has ever put out.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Bruce Springsteen: rebel soul, good-time party rocker, the guy from Philadelphia who only ever sang about cars and girls; his is a legacy tainted by misinformed parody and undeserved malign. In the 70s he was already unstoppable; in the 80s he adopted a commercial bent that propelled him into the realms of superstardom - by 1995, with a fortune stockpiled in Asbury Park, Springsteen had made his millions, and he'd grown old (ok, 45). He didn't need to sing about proving it all night with Rosalita/Sherry/Bobby Jean/whoever or racing his sixty-nine Chevy in the street (in fact, contrary to what Paddy McAloon says, he seldom did). Instead he put it all aside, dispensed with the E-Street sound completely picked up his acoustic guitar, and made a subtle Dylanesque masterpiece, laced with simple, lax melancholy and brimming with wealths of experience, nostalgia and knowing. Never self-indulgent, 'Tom Joad' showcases The Boss' woefully overlooked songmanship - it's the greatest record he's ever made. A striking stylistic departure from past releases -even from 1982s solo `Nebraska', another stark, acoustic depiction of American life, but a more brutal kind that was very much rooted in the depressed state of his younger self, whereas Tom Joad is the sound of an older family man, still bitter but more explicitly political, and unafraid to sound his age - this is grown up music. Springsteen has been an eminent mouthpiece for blue-collar America for the last thirty years. In assessing his career, let us hope that the mean-spirited critic will give pause here: a phenomenal legacy, and a totally gorgeous, low-key, unrefined wonderwork: full of wisdom, rectitude and tender-heartedness. The soundtrack to your salvation: invest - it'll enrich your life. It certainly has, mine.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2003
This is no ordinary Springsteen album. It is remarkable for its arrangements: spare sober, acoustic. Its typical Springsteen for the stories behind the songs; full of American people who try hard to make it, who chase that American dream & meet tragedy on the way. Springsteen makes a case for the people, who are somtimes forced to act illegally without much choice. Here he touches a raw nerve in American society.
Hauntingly beautiful, Spingsteen sings poignantly, without his usual powerful, bombastic sound. Much in line with I'm on fire from Born in the USA. So much the better in my opinion. An album which gets you, without much force, and which leaves a lasting impression.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2007
Never been a huge springsteen fan, but bought a couple of albums with a voucher last year, this one and Born in the Usa.
Born in the USA is a classic no doubt, but "the ghost of Tom Joad" is my favourite.
If you ever want to kick back, close your eyes and be taken on a truly saddening journey then this is the album to choose.
My personal favourite is "the line" for its ability to make me want to cry like no other song can.
I am looking forward to listening to some more albums by the same artist, but do not anticipate finding anything of this calibre.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2010
This album is often forgotten, although the Boss includes tracks in his live shows with the E Street Band. It is thoughtfully composed and is different from the raw rock n' roll for which the Boss is best known.
You can see the great influences on Bruce in sounds and verse better associated with Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie and other great folk singers, who talk about the tough lives of the working man in simple survival.
This album, by comparison with other Springsteen work, rarely receives the acclaim that it deserves but should be in everybody's music library. It is bound by all Springsteen's lyrics by the descriptive power and raw detail, which demands that you listen to the greatest singer, songwriter and musician of my lifetime.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The Ghost of Tom Joad - a reference to the amazing John Ford adaptation of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (historian Howard Zinn believes that this film tells a student all they need to know about the great depression)- feels very much like a return to the world of Springsteen's masterpiece Nebraska (1982). The Boss had done the stadium thing (Born in the USA, Live Box Set) & dealt with personal issues regarding love (Tunnel of Love)- there then came a period where he released OK records, Human Touch & Lucky Town (both 1992)- which attempted to go back to Born in the USA, but avoid sounding too much like the E Street band. A lot of artists lose it at some point- & Springsteen's output from Greetings from Asbury Park to Tunnel would still have remained one of the great back catalogues. But people forget that Springsteen is an artist- & so here, spurned on by John Ford's film, several articles and books listed here- he returned to a world he began to depict around Darkness on the Edge of Town. This is where Springsteen expanded from his themes of cars, girls, & romance- songs like The Promised Land, Darkness on the Edge of Town & a key song, The River (1980). Ultimately this lead to the 4-track minimalism of Nebraska- a world of corruption, darkness, and violence- the kind of thing Russell Banks writes about. The Ghost of Tom Joad expands on this minimal world- a major return to form, it offers subtle arrangements from an acoustic/folk/country centre.
These feel like protest songs- Springsteen, the great liberal that he is, both depicts and empathises with the third world people in these songs. Thinking of Tom Joad & the dust bowl-created exploitation (& indifference from banks repossessing homes), it's not hard to see our Western world- or to think of the "economic migrants" so reviled in this country (who are more often than not asylum seekers/refugees). Springsteen, unlike politicians, doesn't forget that people are humans- not numbers. These are bold themes for a middle aged man to deal with- look at how someone like Neil Young railed at Nixon in the 70s, ended up being pro-Reagan/Dubya & Clear Channel!!!
The songs here are all wonderful- listen to those words, take in that poetic world- wonder about the joys of free-market capitalism and the legacies of Reagan-Bush Sr- Clinton. I love all the songs here, from the cinematic title track to the closing My Best Was Never Good Enough- that sees The Boss lapse into comedy with some lines about Forrest Gump ("Stupid is as stupid does and all the rest of that shit"!). Between are some wonderful songs- my favourites include Sinaloa Cowboys, Straight Time (is the title a reference to the 1978 film of the same name?), Across the Border, Dry Lightning & one of Springsteen's finest songs, Youngstown. This reminds me a little of Michael Moore's film Roger & Me (1989) and also of the world in the early part of The Deer Hunter (1979)- though analogies can be found to say the eradication of the mining communities by Thatcher (whose policies were akin to Reagan's) in this country. It's both angry and melancholic- an elegy for erased communities- amazing that the lines regarding Hitler recall some in Manic Street Preachers' The Holy Bible (1994)! The dying factories, the wasteland communities left behind or erased from history, are put into further context with the lines "These mills they built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars/We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam/Now we wonder what they're dying for". You think of Iraq- or Bush Sr's insistence that the Vietnam syndrome is dead- which is not true when you consider how wars are covered/embedded/made into acceptable propaganda- rather than receive the censure the Vietnam war did. Youngstown is a bleak song, one that probably tells you everything you need to know about how the working man has been treated by free-market capitalism- "there is no such thing as society" being it's M.O. Add to that, the music is as arresting, moving from acoustic to anthemic, as American Music Club's Everclear & REM's Automatic for the People (both 1991).
The Ghost of Tom Joad is a brilliant album, one that shows an artist back on peak form- which was evident on The Rising (2002)- it's a masterpiece and may very well usurp my Springsteen fave Nebraska in years to come. If you get a chance to hear any of the versions of these songs from Springsteen's tour (some are on The Ghost of Tom Joad single)- do. Hope some of those stripped versions turn up on a future release!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2001
Continuing the themes introduced on Nebraska, this is an incredible recording. Its intimacy is such that you cannot play this for anyone, you just have to listen alone. Like a great novel, you are drawn into this world of nostalgia and regret; there isn't a happy ending, not really, just normal people whom Bruce has snapshot as they pass on their way. The lyrics evoke a sense of the midwest; Viet Nam vets with no home to come back to, steelworkers wondering what went wrong as Reaganomics bite deep, lonely people, lovers separated. If you're feeling a little low, maybe a longing for things that you should have done; buy this, disconnect the 'phone, and listen. Then maybe you'll cry a little too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2014
Fantastic. Repays dozens of plays as you can then start to concentrate on the lyrics, which are simply fantastic.
Youngstown is as fine a song as North Country Blues by Dylan (one of my favourites) and the rest of the album is up there with Dylan and Cash at the highest end of American folk music.
Bear in mind, I am a recent convert to Springsteen - I have been put off from what I perceived to be a middle-aged, badly-dressed and overly obsessed fanbase. I take back all my previous thoughts as he is truly a great artist, worthy of comparison with the aforementioned greats.
on 5 March 2013
I witnessed one of Bruce's Hammersmith Odeon shows in 1975 because he had received very enthusiastic critical acclaim for his live performances. At that time, I thought his new album, Born to Run, was overproduced and a bit hysterical. There was a wild reaction from the concert audience, but I found it all a bit contrived that night. I did keep in contact with Bruces later work, but couldn't claim to be a big fan. I had no doubt that he was a talented songwriter, but I was put off by some of the bombast. I liked some of his later tracks, such as the non-flashy 'My Beautiful Reward' which is my favourite Bruce track.
It was these quieter tracks that showed Bruces real potential, which was fully realised with the release of Tom Joad , a superb collection of tracks, where he demonstrated a formidable talent. At his subsequent tour, he performed a terrific show at the Albert Hall. He played many tracks from the album, and It was also a revelation to hear other older songs stripped down, such as Streets of Philadelphia where the silence behind his acoustic guitar was so effective. Its a pity more live material from the tour wasn't officially released.
Tom Joad doesn't have a bad track on it. The concise and evocative lyrics ending with the surprising, and charming, My Best Was Never Good Enough. Bruce has had a long and distinguished career, but I think he is at his best working with less instrumentation. Tom Joad is the best of the best
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2000
This is music stripped down to the bare essentials. Certainly not one for the party animals - this is music to sit in the dark and reflect on the world to (preferably with a large whisky) as The Boss delivers twelve tales of woe, each one a work of musical beauty, none more so than the title track - It will make you want to read Steinbeck's superb "The Grapes Of Wrath" if you haven't already done so.