Columbia Records announced Monday that Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album, “High Hopes,” will be released on Jan. 14, 2014.
The record is an eclectic combination of cover songs, new songs, and songs previously performed by Springsteen in some format. The album was produced by Ron Aniello, who also worked with Springsteen on his previous release, “Wrecking Ball.” Additionally, producer Brendan O’Brien shares production credits on three tracks.
Springsteen is accompanied on this release by the E Street Band, along with Tom Morello (The Nightwatchman, Audioslave, Rage Against The Machine) who temporarily joined the band on the 2013 Australian tour to fill in for Steve Van Zandt (who was absent due to filming commitments for his Netflix series, “Lilyhammer”). Both Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons (who passed away in 2008 and 2011, respectively) also appear on the record.
“High Hopes” Tracklist:
1. High Hopes (Tim Scott McConnell) – featuring Tom Morello
2. Harry’s Place * – featuring Tom Morello
3. American Skin (41 Shots) – featuring Tom Morello
4. Just Like Fire Would (Chris J. Bailey) – featuring Tom Morello
5. Down In The Hole *
6. Heaven’s Wall ** -featuring Tom Morello
7. Frankie Fell In Love
8. This Is Your Sword
9. Hunter Of Invisible Game * -featuring Tom Morello
10. The Ghost of Tom Joad – duet with Tom Morello
12. Dream Baby Dream (Martin Rev and Alan Vega) – featuring Tom Morello
A closer look at the songs of “High Hopes”:
HIGH HOPES: Both a cover and a previously recorded number, this upbeat rockabilly tune by The Havalinas was first recorded by Springsteen in 1995 as part of the sessions for Springsteen’s Greatest Hits album, later released on the “Blood Brothers” DVD. The song was revived onstage when Springsteen visited Australia in the spring of 2013, with one of Morello’s trademark guitar solos. In the liner notes, Springsteen credits Morello with the suggestion to add this track to the band’s set: “Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level. Thanks for the inspiration Tom.” This track, along with “Just With Fire Would,” are noted as coming out of a mid-tour recording session in Australia. Watch the lyric video for the song:
JUST LIKE FIRE WOULD: Originally written and recorded by the Saints, who (along with frontman Chris Bailey), are best known as punk rock pioneers both in Australia and internationally. This track comes from 1987’s more mainstream “All Fool’s Day,” and would reach the top 30’s on the Australian charts. Springsteen and the E Street Band (with Morello) performed the song at their March 14, 2013 show in Brisbane.
DREAM BABY DREAM: Originally written and recorded by Alan Vega and Martin Rev of seminal punk band Suicide in 1975, Springsteen transformed this dark electronic composition into a warmer and more optimistic version, anchored by harmonium, when he added the song to the “Devils & Dust” tour in 2005. The track recently resurfaced as the soundtrack to a ‘thank you’ video released in October to thank the fans for supporting the 2012 & 2013 “Wrecking Ball” tour. Alan Vega, in an 2005 interview with Backstreets Magazine, said, “A lot of bands have done my stuff, Suicide stuff, and they basically try and copy and do it the way that you do it. He just – thank god! – finally somebody did their version of it. They interpreted my song, he did it his way, and such a great way, that I’m going to have to sing it that way, or not sing it at all any more!”
AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS): This protest number was written in 2000 as Springsteen’s reaction to the Amadou Diallo shooting in New York City. It was first performed in Atlanta on June 4, 2000, just prior to Springsteen’s tour-ending ten night stand at Madison Square Garden. The performances of the song in New York resulted in enormous media coverage, as well as boycotts and protests by the New York City Police Department and the Police Benevolent Association.
“American Skin (41 Shots)” has periodically reappeared on Springsteen’s setlists in response to current events, including an incendiary performance in Florida in 2012 as response to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD (Duet with Tom Morello): The title track of Springsteen’s 1995 acoustic album, this ode to the hero of Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” was also recorded by Rage Against The Machine in 1997 and released as a single. Their version would reach No. 35 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 34 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. These two worlds would eventually meet in 2008, when Morello joined Springsteen and the E Street Band onstage in Anaheim to perform a version that merged the two approaches, creating an electrified Springsteen version of the song, which had formerly been performed acoustic or semi-acoustic.
Morello has reprised that performance many times since then, including at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts, at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London’s Hyde Park in 2012, and every night on Springsteen’s 2013 Australian tour.
The remaining songs on “High Hopes” are Springsteen originals: “Harry’s Place,” “Down In The Hole”, “Heaven’s Wall,” “Frankie Fell In Love,” “This Is Your Sword,” “Hunter of Invisible Game,” and “The Wall.” Two of these seven tracks already have some history:
HARRY’S PLACE: An outtake from “The Rising,” “Harry’s Place” was recorded in 2002 with the E Street Band. It would be later revealed by Springsteen to Ted Koppel that “Harry’s Place” was one of two songs recorded that didn’t make the final cut for the album, Springsteen believing that the song’s subject matter didn’t fit thematically with the rest of the record. During the interview, Springsteen read some of the lyrics to Koppel:
Downtown hipsters drinkin’ up the drug line
Down in the kitchen workin’ in the coal mine
Got a special sin, mister, you can’t quite confess
Messy little problem
Maybe baby needs a new dress
Razor-back diamond shines a little too hard
Need a hammer help you handle
A little trouble in your backyard
Bring it on down to Harry’s Place
THE WALL: In February 2003, Springsteen performed two solo acoustic concerts in Somerville, MA to benefit the financially strapped Doubletake Magazine. On the first night, he debuted “The Wall.” Springsteen prefaced the song by explaining that he had taken his wife to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during a trip to Washington, DC, and while there, had been moved to look for the names of friends on the wall: “the drummer of my first band and another close friend in town.” The other dedication would later be revealed during a 2005 performance of the song as Walter Cichon, the leader of Jersey Shore band the Motifs.
This story is reprised by Springsteen in the “High Hopes” liner notes, adding a dedication to Walter Cichon, a local Jersey Shore musician in the Motifs. Springsteen states, “The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960’s central New Jersey.” The liner notes also reveal that the title and the idea of the song came to him from Pittsburgh musician and friend, Joe Grushecky.
Not surprisingly, the track as originally performed is dark and bitter, with lyrics unvarnished and direct:
Cigarettes and a bottle of beer, this poem that I wrote for you
This black stone and these hard tears are all I’ve got left now of you
I remember you in your Marine uniform laughing, laughing at your shipping out party
I read Robert McNamara says he’s sorry
You and your boots and black t-shirt, ah, Billy you looked so bad
Yeah you and your rock and roll band was the best thing this shit town ever had
Now the men that put you here eat with their families in rich dining halls
And apology and forgiveness got no place here at all at the wall
In January, Springsteen and the E Street Band will travel to South Africa for the first time to perform three dates in Cape Town and one in Johannesburg, followed by 13 shows in Australia and New Zealand in February. Sources say that Springsteen plans to return to Europe later in 2014 on the festival circuit. There are no US tour dates announced at this time.