Springsteen to the American dream. Don't call it like 'the Boss is back', he's stayed with us for years, always here. Through the fall of the New Years wrecking ball in Times Square to the taking down of the Christmas trees and fond family, feeling its back to that blue collar, boot-cut jeans work if we can get it in what feels like the coldest winter. In a January like this the seasonal effective disorder of the Winter blues maybe on the cards but so is a Bruce album as per. Just like the two years past 'Wrecking Ball' before Cyrus swing and the Obama rally celebration cry 'Working On A Dream' that came two years before that to complete the new 'Magic' older era on E Street that began with 'The Rising' from the ashes of hurt and horror of a reeling New York and world after 9/11. "We need you" shouted a driver-by to an A.W.O.L. boss after the towers fell and he's been answering that very call ever since. Giving America and the worlds eyes on it 'High Hopes' in troubled times indeed and literally with this new album. It's time to start the year as we mean to go on...with inspiration. The legend that was 'Born To Run' into the 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' through this 'Tunnel Of Love' down 'The River' and his electric 'Nebraska' music will not got quietly into a New Year, New York night.
There needn't be hope here however as this albums standard is as high as the rest of them. Even with this set consisting of a collection of re-took and made B-Sides, tour songs and covers what else could you expect? This is still an original album with vintage, young Springsteen exuberance running through in this new post millennium rich vain of form. Still dancing at 60 like Ali, arguably America's biggest icon since the boxer is rock and American dreams heavyweight chasing down Dylan's songbook with classics in his later career that match and even trump some of his best in a Johnny Cash like round of another set of 'American Recordings'. Elvis would be proud and somewhere Roy Orbison is smiling behind those shades. The Boss and his albums are right there with fellow retirement dodging U2 and Rolling Stone chasing down The Beatles and Jay-Z's number ones. Springsteen can't do it all on his own however. It's never been about him, it's always been about the people and even though E Street has seen some tragedy (we will always be haunted by the saxophone of Clarence Cleamons in 'Secret Garden' along with the late, great Danny Federici, there presence however is still felt here spiritually and recording literally) and time-off (guitar soprano Miami Steve Van Zant it making more mob hits as 'Lillyhammer') it still runs strong. Now too it welcomes 'The Nightwatchman' of Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello to the fold from tour to studio.
If you heard 'The Magic Tour Highlights' ravishing, riff re-imagining, revolution of 'The Ghost Of Tom Joad's awakening then you know the type of spirit we're talking about. If not, then don't worry the classic albums-title track is here too with a new twist as is the 'Blood Brothers EP' B-Side 'High Hopes' that titles this album and kicks it off along with the singles run, starts boldly with the words "Monday mornin' runs to Sunday night/A scream slow me down before the new year dies/Won't take much to kill a lovin' smile/And every mother with a baby cryin' in her arms, singin'/Give me help, give me strength/Give a soul a night of fearless sleep". Another great retake for the record this drum beat call to inspiration is classic Bruce with a raging modern Morello moment for the machine. With 'The Nightwatchman' presiding over the majority of the tracks here this is more than just a real special guest spot, but a new member to the family more than just a feature presentation. Following the tragic events of last year however Morrelo might want to distance himself from his moniker namesake. Still he, Bruce and the rest of the band bring back the Diallo tribute 'American Skin (41 Shots)' in respect and the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It's scary how much this song and its "Is it a gun?/Is it a knife?/Is it a wallet?/This is your life" lyrics don't need to be altered to still have an effect. A generation unaware of Diallo and 'American Skin' may just think this was wrote for Martin...and in some ways it really is.
Following 'Mary's Place' off 'The Rising' we go to what could of been the albums 'Harry's Place' that has the 'Human Touch' sound of classic late 80's to early 90's Bruce, a somewhat underrated and forgotten period after 'Born In The U.S.A.' was embraced and somewhat misunderstood. This new, nostalgic classic is followed by the second-single 'Just Like Fire Would'. No, no typo here just a new hot hit that burns with 'Magic' tricks of the trade brimstone. The 'Swallowed Up' belly of the best like haunting beauty of 'Down In The Hole' and it's dark "Sun comes every morning, but it ain't no friend/I get dressed and I go back again/The rain it keeps on fallin', on twisted bones and dirt/I'm buried to my heart here in this hurt" lyrical turn takes us further before the touch of 'Heavens Wall' evokes the Holy Ghost even more in this latest Springsteen sermon. Then those E Street followers down the 'Tracks' will be glad to hear from 'Frankie' again and that she 'Fell In Love'. With the knifes edge sharpness of 'This Is Your Sword' even the boldest bootlegging Brutus couldn't stab at more classics to add to the collection here. There going to feel like a 'Hunter Of Invisible Game' for these fresh favourites. Clinton Heylin may have to rewrite his ultimate guide to this dynamic discography. Just when you thought you couldn't get enough the album falls perfectly with two fitting tracks. The slow acoustics of 'The Wall' finish penultimate perfectly like a 'Terry's Song' tribute before a reborn cover of Suicide's 'Dream Baby Dream' proves to be alive and the 'Last Carnival' with it's yearning for a burning fire, drying eyes, opening hearts and a simple, repeating desire of "I just want to see you smile". Dream a little dream of a cover that triumphs the original like a 'Hurt' Johnny Cash no more. From Nine Inch Nails to Rage Against The Machine this generations rock legend can see that the true American dream lives in Jersey. He's not heavy, he's our Bruce. TIM DAVID HARVEY.