Einstein is scratchin' numbers on his napkin; Shakespeare says, “Man, it’s just one and one makes three; That’s why it’s poetry”... Bruce Springsteen - Frankie Fell in Love
Bruce Springsteen albums are really hard to review, because he set the bar so high in the 70's and 80's. I think it's only fair to compare apples and apples and look at the albums from 2002's The Rising and forward.
I've always thought The Rising is a great record united by the 911 theme and a fairly recently reunited E Street Band, with both Little Steven and Nils Lofgren together. The album sounded fresh with an emotional edge. The songs were strong lyrically and musically.
Since then the releases have a been more spotty; for ever great song Girls in Their Summer Clothes, Long Walk Home, Life Itself and This Life; there were duds like Queen of the Supermarket or even Radio Nowhere. There have also been some good songs, not great songs like Working on a Dream and We Take Care of Our Own; there have been some good ideas that didn't work so well like Outlaw Pete; and some ordinary songs like Land of Hope and Dreams.
On High Hopes Bruce has changed it up a bit; we get a little bit of everything from cover songs, songs that were previously released and re-recorded and a few new compositions to boot. For the most part, I think the idea works well.
Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine fame) plays guitar on the majority of the tracks. He and Bruce match vocals on a remake of the Springsteen solo song The Ghost of Tom Joad. The track sounds remarkably fresh. American Skin (41 Shots) and Dream Baby Dream both finally get polished studio versions. The light hearted Frankie Fell in Love sounds as if it could have been on Tracks (Bruce's great unreleased music). The Wall, a sequel of sorts to Born in the U.S.A., is quiet eulogy to a fallen war vet presumably at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Hunter of Invisible Game, Heaven's Wall and Down in the Hole are all winners.
It's early, but I think this may be Bruce's best since The Rising. It's superbowl Sunday and we all have High Hopes. Put this CD on and get excited (just avoid Harry's Place)...