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Fan’s eye view – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Wrecking Ball’

Reviews are great if you don’t know the artist, but what if you already do – and, indeed, think of him as one of the family? E-streeter takes a look at the new release from the Boss.

Despite being graced with one of the worst covers I’ve seen – a photograph of The Boss with white paint written over as if by a 10 year old graffiti artist – Wrecking Ball is a record full of spirit, barely contained fury and, as always, hope. Bruce Springsteen’s 17th studio outing – 17th! – sees him assemble an eclectic supporting cast of musicians, including the New York Chamber Consort, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and the Victorious Gospel Choir, in a record which leaves the anodyne Working on a Dream material far behind.

The 11 songs on Wrecking Ball hang well together, drawing inspiration from both the voice and experience of blue collar 21st Century America with some fire and brimstone railing against the corporate greed and faceless predators wreaking havoc on working people and communities not just in the States, but across the developed world. It may seem anomalous to witness a famous 62 year old – 62! – multi-millionaire at the leading edge of the charge against capitalism’s worst excesses, but a cursory examination of Bruce Springsteen’s politics, history and morality shows this is just another step down a path stretching back to ‘Factory’ and ‘Promised Land’ on 1978’s Darkness on The Edge of Town.

Not that this record is political self-indulgence. The music is drawn from a compelling mix of rock, folk, country, gospel and jazz sources and showcased by Ron Aniello’s clear and bright production. Springsteen revisits work with the Seeger Sessions Band on songs like ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Shackled and Drawn’ and there are songs on this record that you could easily imagine The Pogues covering. Accordians, flutes, banjo and horns add colour and depth, entwined with hints of New Orleans and cajun influence. It’s sublime and engaging; typical of Springsteen to throw everyone a curve ball and show yet another side to his repertoire.

The standout track which brought a genuine tear to my eye is the reworked ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’, a song of inspiration and optimism which first appeared in 1999 on the E Street Band’s Reunion tour. This features the richly melodic honk and rumble of the late Clarence Clemons on saxophone and I’ll leave the last words about the Big Man to Bruce’s own liner notes: “Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of partnership that transcended those I’d written in my songs and in my music.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band are appearing in the UK in June in Sunderland, Manchester, Hyde Park and the Isle of Wight Festival.
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