Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was raised Roman Catholic. His first album was 1973’s GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N. J. He became one of my early rock star heroes with the release of 1984’s BORN IN THE U.S.A. The album cover was Annie Leibovitz’s photo of his jean covered backside, with him facing an American flag. Songs included ‘I’m On Fire’, ‘Glory Days’, and ‘Dancing in the Dark’. I also enjoy his 2009 album WORKING ON A DREAM which includes ‘Outlaw Pete’, ‘My Lucky Day’, and ‘This Life’. Before releasing his seventeenth studio album WRECKING BALL (2012, Columbia Records), Bruce was working on a gospel record. WRECKING BALL is his tenth Number one album in the U.S. tying him with Elvis Presley for third most Number one albums of all time behind the Beatles and Jay-Z. It was mainly recorded at Stone Hill Studio at Springsteen’s home studio at his Colts Neck, New Jersey farm house. Springsteen is credited for vocals, guitars, banjo, piano, organ, drums, percussion, and loops. Background vocalists include Patty Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, and Lisa Lowell.

‘We Take Care of Our Own’ is one of thirty or forty songs he had penned for the gospel record. The song is upbeat and patriotic: “I been knocking on the door that holds the throne/I been looking for the map that leads me home/I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone/The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone/We take care of our own (2X)/Wherever this flag’s flown/We take care of our own.” ‘Easy Money’ has a joyous sound to it with Steve Jordan on tambourine. It has playful lyrics that for some reason make me think of the Flintstones: “You put on your coat, I’ll put on my hat/You put out the dog, I’ll put out the cat/You put on your red dress, you’re looking real good honey/We’re going on the town now looking for easy money.” ‘Shackled and Drawn’ has Clif Norell on tuba and has a rootsy, gospel feel to it. It speaks of the large gap between labourers and bosses: “Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bill/It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill/Up on banker’s hill the party’s going strong/Down here below we’re shackled and drawn.”

‘Jack of All Trades’ is a pretty ballad that speaks again of the wide divide between workers and bosses and yearns for a spiritual resolution: “The hurricane blows, brings a hard rain/When the blue sky breaks, it feels like the world’s gonna change/We’ll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might/I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright/The banker man grows fat, the working man grows thin/It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again.” ‘Death to my Hometown’ has a parade marching band feel to it. It contains excerpts from Alan Lomax’s ‘The Last Words of Copernicus’. Springsteen admonishes his audience: “Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it ‘til you’re done/Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well/Send the robber barons straight to hell/The greedy thieves who came around/And ate the flesh of everything they found/Whose crimes have gone unpunished now/Who walk the streets as free men now.” ‘This Depression’ shows a vulnerable side of Bruce and has a darker feel to it: “Baby, I’ve been down but never this down/I’ve been lost but never this lost/This is my confession, I need your heart/In this depression, I need your heart.”

The title track, ‘Wrecking Ball’ is strong. It is about the 2010 demolition of Giants Stadium. It has a warm sound musically, but finds Bruce defiant: “I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago/Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I’ve seen champions come and go/So if you got the guts mister, yeah, if you got the balls/If you think it’s your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball.” ‘You’ve Got It’ uses a horn section and is a well delivered song of passion: “Yeah, you can’t read it in a book, and you can’t even dream it/Honey, it ain’t got a name, you just know it when you see it/Baby you’ve got it, yeah, baby you’ve got it/Come on and give it to me.” ‘Rocky Ground’ uses excerpts from Alan Lomax’s ‘I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord’. It features the vocal singing and rapping talents of gospel singer Michelle Moore. It is a very creative song musically and speaks of a very real spiritual struggle: “You pray that hard times, hard times come no more/You try to sleep , you toss and turn, the bottom’s dropping out/Where you once had faith, now there’s only doubt/You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers/The morning breaks, you awake but no one’s there/We’ve been travelling over rocky ground, rocky ground/There’s a new day coming.”

‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ was composed circa 1998/9. It features the Victorious Gospel Choir, and a great sax solo by late great E Street Band member Clarence Clemons. This almost seven minute long tune is celebratory and speaks of people travelling to their eternal home: “Well, this train carries saints and sinners/This train carries losers and winners/This train carries whores and gamblers/This train carries lost souls/I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted/This train, faith will be rewarded/This train, hear the steel wheels singing/This train, bells of freedom ringing.” ‘We are Alive’ has Max Weinberg on drums and makes use of the horn riff from Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’. The song gives voice to those who’ve passed on from this earth: “We are alive/And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark/Our souls and spirits rise/To carry the fire and light the spark/To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/We are alive.”

The special edition of the album includes two bonus tracks. ‘Swallowed up (In the Belly of a Whale)’ has Dan Shelly on bassoon and Mark Romatz on contra bassoon, and sounds haunting. One can’t help but think of Jonah when listening to it: “I fell asleep on a dark and starlit sea/With nothing but the cloak of God’s mercy over me/I come upon strange earth and a great black cave/I dreamt I awoke as if buried in my grave/We’ve been swallowed up (2X)/Disappeared from this world/We’ve been swallowed up.” ‘American Land’ has a Celtic feel to it. I picture highland dancing going on. Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band plays mandolin. The lyrics tell of the sad plight of many immigrants to the U.S.: “They come across the water a thousand miles from home/With nothing in their bellies but the fire down below/They died building the railroads, they worked to bones and skin/They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind/They died to get here a hundred years ago, they’re still dying now/Their hands that built the country, we’re always trying to keep out.”

This record should be used as a tutorial for up and coming artists and as a refresher for some veteran artists on how to make a spectacular rock album. WRECKING BALL oozes with talent, guts, and heart. There is not one song you should skip over. This truly is the Boss at his best! We, his fans, have much to be thankful for! I’m rating it near perfection at 98%. For more info visit www.brucespringsteen.net.