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Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

Kimberley Manderson

Triangle

The Boss returns this week with his 18th (can you believe it?!) studio album, High Hopes. Essentially a reworking of some old tracks, a couple of covers and a generous hand from Tom Morello, will this mish-mash of offcuts stand up to Springsteen’s usual quality LP?

Well it gets off to a good start anyway, with title track and lead single High Hopes. The tremendously bluesy effort was originally recorded by Los Angeles band The Havalinas, and a version appeared on Springsteen’s Blood Brothers EP back in 1996. Easily the catchiest on the album, it’s easy to see why this is the lead track.

Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello has quite a heavy presence on the record, rocking the album up a bit and even taking a turn on vocals on The Ghost Of Tom Joad, transforming the song from an indeed ghostly acoustic number to something far fuller and louder.

As with any Springsteen album, there are a couple of slower-paced heart-wrenchers on High Hopes. Fans and Wrecking Ball Tour-goers will recognise the cover of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream, for whom the song and video were dedicated to back in October. And as if that wasn’t sentimental enough, Springsteen also pays homage to his fallen friend in Vietnam memorial song The Wall.

The late Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici have their respective sax work and organ playing showcased on Down In The Hole, whereas elsewhere Springsteen treads slightly unfamiliar ground covering Just Like Fire Would.

And of course no Springsteen album would be complete without taking on the big guys, or making them accountable in some way or another. That’s where American Skin (41 Shots) comes in. Originally written in tribute to Amadou Diallo – who was shot by plain-clothed police officers in 1999 – Springsteen has been playing the song live again and has given it a place on High Hopes in honour of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot dead last year, whose killer walked away free.

Although not a brand new collection of Springsteen’s work, High Hopes contains everything his fans could have asked for. Containing all the usual themes and stories explored by the Boss, the reworkings and cover versions only add to his creative boundaries and limits. There’s no doubting it at all – he’s still the Boss.

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