on 26 January 2014
Much has been made of the fact that the Boss' newest album is more a patchwork quilt compared to his classics because the songs and/or recordings are from a variety of sessions, or are covers, or are re-workings of previously released songs. Whilst it's been common for fans to have encyclopaedic knowledge of their favourite artists' works, right down to session dates and origins of songs, I fear that such devoted attention to detail has somewhat prejudiced their initial attitude towards "High Hopes" as an album, perhaps believing it to be padded with filler. Whatever the Boss' motives, frankly I don't give a damn if he did pad out this album with filler because overall I think it's a sensational piece of work, beautifully sequenced and remarkably punchy. I just picked it up on impulse today and played it from start to finish on my pokey little Phillips stereo and I was hooked all the way through to the marvellously funereal cover of "Dream Baby Dream".
Of the covers and re-workings, "High Hopes" as it appears here packs more of a wallop than Springsteen's first bash at it, which ended up hidden away as a B-side or an extra track on a CD single. That particular version now strikes me as casually urgent. I didn't actually realise it was a cover and until recently assumed it was a Springsteen original. Lyrically, it suits the Boss' style perfectly and this new arrangement is brassier and more defiant. The electrified "Ghost Of Tom Joad" with Tom Morello has been a live favourite for some time and it's great to have this dynamic studio recording as part of this set. It's quite evident from this and several other songs on "High Hopes" that the seething anger of the "Wrecking Ball" album hasn't abated.
It's a testament to Springsteen's genius in arranging and his sureness in knowing exactly what sounds he wants to hear that results in Tom Morello's scorching guitar being so cohesively and brilliantly slotted into 7 of the songs. They've formed a wonderful bond over the years and this latest musical partnership has textured Springsteen's music so effectively I can't imagine another album or tour without his participation.
"Harry's Place" has a groove similar to Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues". I like it a lot.
"American Skin" is as potent as ever, Springsteen's vocal sounding a little like it's coming from a radio news report.
"Just Like Fire Would" is another cover which Springsteen has effortlessly made his own. Again, this could have quite easily come from his back catalogue. A great song and a classic Springsteen performance.
I'm still absorbing the other tunes but I know that as soon as the CD finished playing I wanted to go back to the beginning and listen again. That can't be a bad thing. I was genuinely surprised at how good this album sounded as the other reviews had prepared me for disappointment. I'd rate this particular album higher than "Working On A Dream", another "hot off the tour" studio album. Although many of the songs on "Working On A Dream" are excellent and even though the album does successfully capture the rush of enthusiasm from the road, some of the songs felt rushed and under developed. On "High Hopes" the Boss has made a more judicious selection of songs and the arrangements are more considered. This is a confident sounding Springsteen and boldly experimental on his terms.
I hope people will give this album a chance.
on 16 January 2014
There are a number of negative reviews on here which I find confusing. Springsteen is at the point of his career where he's not really picking up 'new' fans per se, so the majority of comments here are from his legion of dedicated fans. Why lambast him for releasing new material, irrespective of whether it's a concise new album or individual tracks written and recorded over the past 10 years or so which didn't make an album released during those years? If you like, this is a mini Tracks, a compilation of songs that don't have an over-arching narrative which the majority of his albums normally do (hence why these songs didn't fit onto past albums).
Instead, we should savour the fact that The Boss still prefers the old school method of releasing songs on a format most of his fans still adhere to. If this was a newer artist, these would be download only, or part of an extended package as an additional disc on a Wrecking Ball Special Edition which is a rip-off for those who already purchased the album.
As it is, this album is pretty good. Bruce is in good voice and the arrangements and performances from The E Street Band with the overly hyped addition of Tom Morello make this the best sounding full band album since The Rising.
Harry's Place which is a seriously groovy funk track with added profanities and worth the price of the album alone! The Wall which reminded me of The Wrestler from Working On A Dream and Dream Baby Dream which is an amazing and uplifting end to the album.
Also of note are American Skin (41 Shots) which is very well known as a live track from his reunion tour with the E Street Band back in 1999 and a harder rocking version of The Ghost Of Tom Joad with added guitar histrionics from Morello.
Overall, a fine album which avoids the more political anthems from Wrecking Ball but delivers a varied range of styles utilised by Springsteen since the mid 90's.
on 20 January 2014
Comparing modern day Springsteen albums with pre "Tunnel of Love" Springsteen albums is an unfair and unjust task.
The best songs since the E Street Band Reunion in 1999 (such as The Rising, Long Walk Home, Land of Hope and Dreams), as good as they are, are never going to compare to the Born to Run's and Thunder Road's of the world.
However, Bruce is still very capable of putting together a strong showing. 2002's "The Rising" proved that and 2007's fantastic "Magic" remains his strongest showing since the aforementioned "Tunnel". So with that said Springsteen fans would have had `high hopes' for this latest grab bag offering consisting of cover songs, reimagined older songs and songs that were originally cast aside from other albums. The results are somewhat mixed leaving the album floundering, being better than 2009's "Working on a Dream" but not quite as strong as 2012's critically acclaimed but in reality middle of the road "Wrecking Ball".
The three cover songs "High Hopes", "Just like Fire Would" and "Dream Baby Dream" are fine but hardly likely to leave any lasting impact on Springsteen gigs in the future. Springsteen original "The Wall" also has enough of Sting's "Fields of Gold" in it to add it to this category.
"Frankie Fell in Love" sounds like it belongs on Tracks CD2 with other River outtakes and is decent enough as a filler track while the dirty sounding "Harry's Place", despite the unnecessary F Bombs, is well worth a listen.
"American Skin (41 Shots)" and the electric Tom Morello inspired version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" both already well familiar with live audiences also find a place on this album. The former - a controversial song when first debuted in 1999 - is long overdue a place on a studio album and sounds great. The latter is also well worth a listen (with a shared vocal with the younger artist as well as some terrific guitar work) but it has to be said that the definitive version of this great song has already appeared on the album of the same name in 1995.
This leaves the three album highlights. "Down in the Hole" has very much an "I'm on Fire" vibe to it and while not quite reaching the heights of that classic it still sounds superb. "Heaven's Wall" is another terrific effort, soaring high with an instantly catchy tune, while it's hard to imagine why the brilliant "Hunter of Invisible Game" was ever left of any album.
Perhaps the biggest strength of "High Hopes" is that Bruce has taken these older songs, cover songs and reimagined songs and threaded them together to make them sound like one album and while that album is not without fault, there is enough good on it to make it a worthy addition to any Springsteen fans collection.
I really bought this version of High Hopes for the bonus DVD so I consider the CD as a bit of an extra! The music on the CD is not bad - nowhere near classic Bruce however - and I'll probably play it a few times before it gets filed away. However the DVD shows Bruce and the E Street Band can still put on a live show like very few other bands can manage!
I saw Bruce and the band on the original Born in the U.S.A. tour at Wembley in July 1985 and it may just be the best live gig I've ever seen; watching the DVD of the concert from the Olympic Park brought back many happy memories of that summers night. If you have been less than impressed by Bruce's recent work this DVD will show you why he is still the Boss live.
The DVD features all the tracks from the Born in the U.S.A. album in track running order and played by as many of the classic E Street Band as are still with us. The line up includes:
The E Street Band:
* Bruce Springsteen - lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica
* Roy Bittan - piano, synthesizer
* Charles Giordano - organ, background vocals (replaces the late Danny Federici)
* Nils Lofgren - rhythm guitar, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, background vocals
* Garry Tallent - bass guitar, background vocals
* Soozie Tyrell - violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, background vocals
* Steven Van Zandt - rhythm guitar, lead guitar, mandolin, acoustic guitar, background vocals,
* Max Weinberg - drums
The E Street Horns:
* Jake Clemons - saxophone, percussion, background vocals (nephew of the late Clarence)
* Barry Danielian - trumpet, percussion
* Clark Gayton - trombone, tuba, percussion
* Eddie Manion - saxophone, percussion
* Curt Ramm - trumpet, percussion
The E Street Choir:
* Curtis King - background vocals, tambourine
* Cindy Mizelle - background vocals, tambourine
* Michelle Moore - background vocals, rapping on Rocky Ground
* Everett Bradley - percussion, background vocals
* Adele Springsteen (Bruce's mum comes on stage for "Dancing in the Dark")
* Pamela Springsteen (Bruce's sister sings on "Dancing in the Dark")
If you were at the 2013 concert you've probably bought this already - if you weren't there but like classic Bruce and the E Street Band then buy this limited edition version of High Hopes while it is still available. Five stars for the DVD alone - I'm just sorry I wasn't there myself!
I suspect that most people looking at this page will be long-term Springsteen fans like me who will already have ordered this no matter what any reviews say, but for what it's worth I think this is a pretty good album: not a Springsteen classic but well worth having. I thought it might just be some previously rejected, sub-standard old stuff cobbled together but it's a lot better than that. I was very lucky to receive an advance copy of this album and I've listened to it a lot over the last couple of weeks. I'm glad I did because I was unimpressed on first hearing, but it's improved a lot with repeated playing.
It's hard for Bruce to follow the excellent Wrecking Ball because that was such a passionate, heartfelt album. Tracks like Death To My Hometown came from deep in his heart and it showed. Here, there's not so much of that and I think there are a couple of pretty weak tracks, but there are some fine songs and a few real belters - a fine out-and-out Springsteen rocker in Frankie Fell In Love and a terrific, driving, full-rock-band version of The Ghost Of Tom Joad, for example. American Skin has grown on me a lot and I think it may be among my list of Bruce classics in the end. He sounds rather like JJ Cale in Harry's Place and very like Dylan in Hunter Of Invisible Game, both of which are very good songs... I'd describe it as a varied and interesting set with some great highlights.
Springsteen's lyrics have always been a real strength. His fine, heartfelt stories in natural-sounding language have made songs like The River, Racing In The Street and dozens of others genuine classics, and he also regularly comes up with simple but brilliant couplets like,
"Somewhere along the line I stepped off track -
One step up and two steps back..."
This is not so much in evidence here. For example, there are no rhymes in either High Hopes or Just Like Fire Would (the weakest track on the album for me). This is hard to pull off in a rock song and doesn't really work here. There are some fine lyrical moments on the album - notably in The Wall and American Skin - but there's not that much in the way of real classic stuff.
I'm also slightly dubious about some of the production, which strays more toward pop than rock values at times. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't think it sits all that well with Springsteen's style in a lot of songs. For example, in Down The Hole the vocals begin in a compressed down-a-phone-line effect and then suddenly (and quite randomly) become normal - it just seems like a pointless and gimmicky trick to me which diminishes a good song.
I don't want to carp too much - the good far outweighs the poor here and I doubt that any of Bruce's fans will be disappointed. He sings with real heart most of the way through and there's no doubt that the man has still got it. This isn't up there with his genuine classic albums and it's not as good as Wrecking Ball, but it certainly doesn't disgrace a truly great songwriter and performer and I'll still be playing a lot of it for years to come, I think. My advice is to buy it and play it a lot - I think you'll like it.
on 11 January 2015
Major Bruce fan, not a "Dancing in the Dark" tourist, but this kind of misses for me. The only real masterpiece is "Hunter of Invisible Game", which hints at a whole new direction Bruce might decide to move in to. For me, he took a bit of a wrong turn hiring that guy from Rage At The Machine, or whatever they were called. That awful squiddly diddly squeaky rock sound just grates after a while, and as much as I love to see Bruce live, if he comes with that guy in the band again to the UK, I would seriously reconsider going. And it feels like it's been thrown together, not a cohesive new album of all original work written with purpose (he's given to covering himself now - always a sign of a creative crisis). I'm sure he has plenty of great albums yet to come, but this will probably be viewed as a mid career moderately interesting diversion
on 7 March 2014
Yet another barnstorming album from the boss,i have read a few moans from people about the album having no narrative,that's because there isn't one & there's a good reason why.
The tracks are either favourite songs performed live but now given studio time or out-takes,this could mean songs that did not make other albums,hence no narrative.But what is does have is plenty of punch helped along by Rage Against The Machines Tom Morello,some of the best songs start slow & build or suddenly burst into life.
More of a rock album but there is still a touch of that E-street,slightly jingly-jangly sound.
A fine album from one of the most consistant artists around today,still the boss?.....definately.
It pains me to review a Springsteen album with anything less than unidirectional approval - the man is has been a hero of mine since childhood and I've been in awe of him for as long as I can remember... but I've been struggling hard lately to maintain my usual levels of adoration and felt duty bound to offer a counterpoint to the other reviews here, which seem disproportionately complimentary to me. Five stars? Really? High Hopes caps off a trilogy of disappointments for me that started with the career-low of Working On A Dream. Wrecking Ball was a class above that (and this) record, but still suffered from the same over-polished, overly-pumped-up production values, plus the odd bit of misjudged Dropkick Murphys-style Celtic punk (a problem that resurfaces here on This Is Your Sword). There, as here, song quality varies. Worse still, even the decent songs are rendered poorly - the results can sound a bit like treading water. There's certainly no shortage of good songs here: 41 Shots (American Skin) is an extraordinary example, but the live version (captured nicely in 2001 on Live In New York City) far outclasses the overly-stylised studio one here, complete with horrible vocal effects and some pretty wanton guitar soloing from Tom Morello (his new muse, it seems) that risks drowning out Clarence Clemons' saxophone. Similarly, Springsteen's now-classic cover of Suicide's Dream Baby Dream is breath-taking - but the stripped down 2008 12" version with just Bruce on pump organ (recorded live for the Dust Devils solo tour 2005) is infinitely preferable to the full-band version here, all drenched in overdubbed drums and climaxing in treacly strings. The end result actually sounds far less dramatic than it does on the aforesaid 12" version, which I'd urge everyone to check out. There are a couple of partial-exceptions here which seem to have been excused Brendan O'Brien's sonic coup de grâce: The Wall is a rare case in point. Elsewhere, there's too many gimmicky effects (vocal treatments, echoes, distortions), too much studio gloss and it all sounds too self-consciously 'current'. The mix is all wrong; it's submerged in a slick FM lacquer that engulfs Springsteen's voice on half the songs. Not a single rough edge in evidence: this is the sandpapered-down Bruce Springsteen beloved of those who buy their CDs in supermarkets and listen to them mostly in the car. As far I'm concerned, Springsteen has never done anything that's entirely without merit - but I don't envisage myself playing this record much in the years to come, unlike the vast majority of his catalogue. Bear in mind this is coming from a fully-paid up long-time fan, not a detractor. Which makes it doubly troubling for me to say this: I was close to giving it two stars. [Corrections & clarifications: Although I stand by the basic points about the mix and production values I was trying to make in this review, it's since transpired that I was mistaken to refer to Clarence Clemmons being drowned out on 41 Shots (American Skin); Clemmons does appear (posthumously) on two tracks - Harry's Place and Down In The Hole - but not 41 Shots. Similarly Danny Federici also appears posthumously on The Wall and Down In The Hole, but on organ and not trumpet, as I wrongly asserted in the comments section below].
on 28 July 2014
For a long time after I bought this, I'd want to get in my car and listen to it when I was doing other things. Sometimes I'd finding myself wanting to listen to it even when I was already listening to it. Whilst this is nominally a ragbag of re-recordings of old material, to my mind, it's his best album since The Rising. There are one or two misfires on this-a cover of The Saints' Just Like Fire Wood doesn't really work-but, in the main, it's a set of wonderful songs. The re-imagining of the Ghost of Tom Joad, in particular, is one of the most viscerally thrilling things I've ever heard, The Hunter Of Invisible Game is beautifully strange and, in Vietnam Memorial The Wall, Springsteen manages to do in four minutes something Oliver Stone didn't quite manage to pull off over the course of three films. This might be a collection of off-cuts, but it's better than a lot of his rival's proper albums.
on 19 May 2016
A mixed bag and strangely produced in and some cases ruined by guitarist Tom Morrello, ghost of Tom Joad is great but the prog like solo on it is completely out of place, 41 shots is great. For me the rising is Bruce's best album, working my way through his other stuff and dare I say it and I always had my suspicions Bruce seems extremely overrated, I grew up through his early days but myself and fellow music fanatics could never get into his work.