Monday, January 13, 2014


Bruce cleans out his closets from the past decade or so, making available some old tracks that didn't make the final cut on albums, and puts to disc a few covers he's enjoyed playing the last few tours.  There's no big picture to the album, other than a look at his influences, and the appearance on seven of the twelve cuts of Tom Morello.  The Rage Against The Machine guitarist has been a pal and frequest sparring partner during this period, now even an auxiliary E Streeter, after subbing for Miami Steve during a leg of the last tour.  So there's a bit of his stirring and loud guitar here and there, and some songs of the downtrodden, their mutual interest.

Some of the cuts go back far enough to include instrumentation by Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, the two E Streeters no longer with us.  Others are brand new recordings, even if the songs are old, reflecting Springsteen's interest in them during the last tour.  There's High Hopes and Just Like Fire Would, two obscure covers where Morello is featured strongly.   We finally get studio versions of a number of cuts familiar to followers, American Skin (41 Shots) and The Ghost Of Tom Joad.  Skin is one of Springsteen's most controversial numbers, written after a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man, that earned him the ire and protests of police in New York.  This version of Tom Joad features Morello on co-lead vocal, a favourite of the duo's when doing guest spots.  Both have shown up on live recordings before, and are probably a little more powerful in concert.  The new songs, or at least new to us, are a mixed bag, from the string-filled ballad Hunter Of Invisibile Game to the funky groove of Harry's Place.  The latter isn't much, another tale of mobsters with an odd sound for Springsteen, and Morello sounding completely out of place trying to toughen up the slick sound.  There are better new numbers though, including Down In The Hole, which he probably first jettisoned for sounding too much like I'm On Fire.  Frankie Fell In Love features one of his most over-used names in the title, but it's the old good-time party sound that fits all those Frankie characters, and a welcome upbeat moment among the many serious numbers.

As a grab-bag of leftovers, it beats most anyone's attempts of course, and you can tell Springsteen was working as hard on these cuts as any others to make them as good as they can be.  Really, it's just a notch below his better albums.  Perhaps knowing it wasn't quite up to a classic collection, there's a great bonus in the CD/DVD version;  from a show in London last summer, when he performed the entire Born In The USA album from start to finish.  That alone will be more exciting for certain fans than the new tracks, and you certainly can't argue this isn't value for your money.

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