Review: Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball”

One could argue that, at this stage in his career, a Bruce Springsteen album will be two things: never as good as his best work and still better than any new rock music releases.

With Wrecking Ball, Springsteen’s 17th album, he somehow confounds this notion by delivering a record great enough to be considered alongside his best work. Sure, there are experiments with a segment of Bruce-penned rap in “Rocky Ground”, some percussion loops, and Dropkick Murphy-style stomp rock with “Death to My Hometown” and “Shackled and Drawn”.

But what Wrecking Ball really flies is a gospel music flag. The chord changes, the church choir voices, and the lyrics that ultimately forsake resignation for hope.

Is it about Occupy Wall Street, as many focused on before its release? I d argue that is too narrow of an assessment. Instead, it is about the country, and the economy, and what the past few years has done to the psyche of those who are living without the safety net of millions of dollars in the bank. Looked at in these thematic terms, it relates more to Born in the USA than any other record he has made.

The most familiar (i.e. 70’s and 80’s Bruce rock) sounds come from the title cut, “We Take Care of Our Own”, and (due to it’s inclusion in the past ten years of shows) “Land of Hope and Dreams”, recast here as a focused, kicking rock anthem. These are the songs most easily digested by fans. They lend familiarity to the set, allowing for some sonic risks on the other cuts.

The centerpiece is “Jack of All Trades”, a Nebraska-esque sound wrapped around a song about a man who can do a lot of things, but nothing about problems bigger than himself. Still, he tries to convince his girl that it will “be alright”.

The album is wholly and unmistakably a Bruce Springsteen rock record. Hints of his Seeger Sessions work are never too far away — and that looseness is welcome.

And when Clarence Clemons’ sax solo rings during the latter half of “Land of Hope and Dreams”, the melancholy is absorbed by the notion that Springsteen has figured out how to mix his old with a touch of new, with the help of producer Ron Aniello. The album will be one of the best rock (or other) albums of 2012.

The bedlam of Born in the USA will never return; that was a blaze that burned far too high and wide to be repeated. But what Wrecking Ball does is show an American rock and roll singer, nearly 30 years down the road from that cultural moment, still able to capture a sound and emotion that resonates deeply.

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Brand new Bruce…

wrecking ball - bruce springsteenBrand new Bruce Springsteen song released today.  “We Take Care of Our Own” is from the upcoming (March 6) album Wrecking Ball. You can get the song at Amazon as a download, or watch the video/hear the audio here.

Don’t want to say too much yet; listen for yourself and we’ll discuss later. Yet I will say there is a pop music gleam to this one, while retaining the core of Springsteen’s brilliance – gospel, majestic and hopeful music, tinged with some anger. More info on the release and new producer Ron Aniello here.

Wrecking Ball TRACK LISTING

  • We Take Care of Our Own
  • Easy Money
  • Shackled and Drawn
  • Jack of All Trades
  • Death to My Hometown
  • This Depression
  • Wrecking Ball
  • You’ve Got It
  • Rocky Ground
  • Land of Hope and Dreams
  • We Are Alive
  • two bonus tracks

Twang Rock News: The Elms, KY Headhunters, Will Hoge, Springsteen tune, more…

Owen Thomas of the Elms feels the rock and roll
Owen Thomas of the Elms feels the rock

The Elms  (Indiana’s own, from Seymour) have a new album “The Great American Midrange” out, if you haven’t grabbed it yet…It’s loud, energetic rock and roll, informed by Petty/power-pop influences and has a solid Middle America vibe. The best record yet for the group. “Back to Indiana”, “County Fair” “Strut”, and “Unless God Appears First” are my favorites at the moment. Ordered on their website. (theelms.net) you can get the album and a companion acoustic version for 15 bucks, or 10 bucks on iTunes for the regular release. If you dig Petty, Springsteen, and Cheap Trick, it’s worth a listen. Or four. They play a show a show in Terre Haute on November 12 and headline in Indy at the Vogue on November 13, with supporting acts Green River Ordinance and one of our faves, Henry French and the Shameless.
NOVEMBER 12, 2009: The Verve. $5. 8pm. 21+
NOVEMBER 13, 2009: The Vogue. $10-$12. 8pm. 21+
HEAR  “Back to Indiana”
https://rockforward.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/elms_back_to_indiana.mp3%20

kentuckyheadhunters2There is a fabulous, honest, intelligent interview with Richard Young of the woefully underappreciated Kentucky Headhunters at 9513.com. The Headhunters had seven studio albums and four straight Top 30 hits in the early 90s – “Walk Softly On This Heart of Mine,” “Dumas Walker,” the not-so-big-hit“ Rock ‘n’ Roll Angel” and “Oh Lonesome Me.” They’ve won a Grammy, CMA and ACM award in their long history (not that awards make a band good, but it does show they were, at one time, a big deal in country music. ) They rocked, yet were a bit hard to categorize. I played the shit out of them at a radio station I was working for around 1990.  But they were unique; oddness come by honestly. Read full article

FEATURED MUSIC ARTICLE: I love my Peter Cooper.  The music writer for The Tennessean in Nashville, (and a guitar player of considerable talent – he’s been playing with Todd Snider recently)  has written a great little piece that is called “70 is the New 30”, talking about some great new music from legendary artists. He riffs on Kris Kristofferson Bobby Bare, Loretta Lynn,  Bill Anderson, Tom T. Hall, Willie and Merle too.  Must read

willhoge08SHOW REMINDER: Nashville boy Will Hoge returns to Indianapolis for the first time in more than a year with a show at Radio Radio on November 21. He burns it up live – his gig at the Rathskeller last summer was outstanding.  And he writes a nicely descriptive website blog too.

ROOTS ROCK TWANG NEWS:
Bruce Springsteen debuted a new song at Giants Stadium during his run of five shows at the soon-to-be-demolished facility. He has played there more than 60 times in his career…the song’s a testament to how unique Bruce is when it comes to capturing moments in time, making them a metaphor for life, and his strength at writing an anthem.  And we have a pro-recorded version of the song…
HEAR “Wrecking Ball”
https://rockforward.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/wrecking_ball128_bruce10309.mp3%20

Pat Green parted ways with BNA Records after two albums – 2006’s Cannonball and 2009’s What I’m For.  Maybe now Pat will get a little dirtier with his future efforts. I really like him and he is tremendous as a live act. Just would like to see some shine worn off the sound.  Here the link to his site, as his career continues to roll on, label or not.

Not exactly R.E.M., but it was close. Drummer Bill Berry performed with R.E.M. bandmates Peter Buck and Mike Mills onstage recently in  the Athens, Georgia, nightclub the 40 Watt, covering the Beatles “Ballad of John & Yoko” and the McCoys’ classic “Hang On Sloopy.”  Berry, who last played with R.E.M.  in 2007 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was also joined by frequent R.E.M. collaborator and Minus 5 main man Scott McCaughey on lead vocals.

On the new Rosanne Cash album, The List plays like a tribute to the durability of country songwriting . She argues songs such as Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak,”(a killer duet with Bruce Springsteen) Harlan Howard’s “I’m Movin’ On” and Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” are worth hearing again.– Read more

VIDEO – Springsteen opens final Giants Stadium stand with new song, complete Born To Run peformance

Seemingly always working at getting better, Bruce Springsteen whipped out a three-hour, 13-minute show Wednesday (9.30.09) night at the soon-to-be-gone Giants Stadium with a new song written specifically for the occasion: “Wrecking Ball”.  Bruce and the E. St. Band also perormed an epic version of his 1975 classic Born to Run album, stretching the 39-minute record to nearly an hour. Early reports? Amazing.

From NJlive.com, there’ s a pro-shot look at the opening of the show, featuring the new song…turn it up.
CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO/SHOW  SETLIST