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High Hopes, Mixed Results
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.