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From UK Classic Rock magazine.. 8/10 - (copied from BTX and tidied up)
The world tour that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band embarked upon shortly after the release of 2012's Wrecking Ball has yet to come to an end, a second sweep through Australia and New Zealand keeping them on the road until early March. Such an intense itinerary would suggest little time to prepare a follow-up album, but High Hopes arrives as a result of trawling the archives and whistle-stop visits to studios between shows.
It's a new Springsteen album, but with many familiar motifs, including a couple of pivotal tracks that appeared in different form on previous records, and other songs show cased onstage down the years.
Consequently, there's no linking narrative here, no umbrella themes like on The Rising, Devils and Dust or Wrecking Ball; instead, it's a pleasing patchwork of echoes of the past.
While the E Street Band, including dear departed members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici all feature, the most notable collaborator is Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello on eight of the 1 2 tracks. His presence continues a liaison which began when he stood in for Bruce's regular right-hand man Steve Van Zandt, who took a short sabbatical from the tour last year to film the second series of TV crime dram a Lilyhammer.
Morello brings to the party a tougher, more aggressive guitar sound than usual, best exemplified on a reworking of American Skin (41 Shots) and the overhaul of The Ghost Of Tom Joad (on which he also shares lead vocals), the sombre, whispered acoustics of Springsteen's 1995 original Jettisoned in favour of an amped-up, combative folk-rock assault. "Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level," Springsteen writes in the liner notes.
It was Morello's idea to record the title track, a cover of a 1990 song by Los Angeles rockers The Havalinas, his wah-wah guitar underpinning a folk-funk groove that lays the foundation for a raging, pleading lyric that might just as feasibly have come from Bruce's own pen (Give me help, give me strength, give a soul a night of fearless sleep'). It marks the first time (apart from live releases) that Springsteen has included other people's material on one of his albums, and it doesn't stop there. Having said that, The Saints' Just like Fire Would sounded fairly like a Boss song in its original form, while Suicide's Dream Baby Dream has intermittently been part of the Bruce live set for nearly 10 years, to the point where it's often mistaken for one of his own compositions, much in the same way as Tom Waits Jersey Girl. For the long-standing Springsteen fan, there's a fun game to be had identifying the touchstones of his past; the brooding, menacing Harry s Place plays like a seedy small town remake of Murder Incorporated, the subdued shuffle of Down ln The Hole could well be a sequel to the outcast lover's tale l'm On Fire (' . . I'm buried to my heart here in this hurt'), and the jangling, folk-infused this Is Your Sword is cut from the same uplifting cloth as the more defiant and anthemia components of The Rising and Wrecking Ball.
Paradoxically, the album's two most evocative selections prove to be the most throwaway and the most substantial. The goodtime Frankie Fell in Love transports Springsteen back to the early'70s, to the days of sharing a run-down apartment on the Jersey Shore with Van Zandt, a joyously simplistic celebration of a buddy getting the girl of his dreams (World peace gonna break out, from here on in we're eatin' takeout').lt wouldn't have sounded out of place amid the juke box bounce of The River.
The flipside to such frippery is The Wall, Springsteen at his most poetic on a eulogy inspired by another real-life )jersey native who went missing in action in Vietnam. The song finds Bruce standing in front of the stark Washington DC memorial with the names of more than 58,000 fallen souls carved into it ('This black stone and these hard tears are all got left now of you'),remembering times past.
Whereas it’s undoubted companion piece, 1998's Brothers under The Bridge, focussed on returning veterans struggling to adjust to post-war civilian life, The Wall offers up an elegant prayer for those who never made it home. High Hopes is Springsteen's sixth album in a little over eight years, an impressively prolific output matched only by Neil Young among acts of a similar calibre and vintage, and while some of its contents may have been first earmarked for earlier releases, there's nothing to suggest the well will run dry anytime soon. The Boss continues to aim high, filling his legions of followers with hope.