On Bruce Springsteen’s 18th studio album, “High Hopes,” old favorites are given new twists and some previously unreleased songs finally see the light of day.
Fans will recognize the album’s title track from the live version performed in the 1996 film “Blood Brothers,” which documented Springsteen’s reunion with the E Street Band.
The new studio recording of “High Hopes” is a much fuller version of the song, complete with horn section and a chorus of background singers. It also features Tom Morello of the band Rage Against The Machine.
Morello played guitar on the Australian leg of Springsteen’s most recent tour, and quickly became an asset to the group. In his liner notes to the album, Springsteen goes as far as to call him “my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level.”
Morello’s guitar is featured on eight of the 12 tracks, and he sings on “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” trading verses with The Boss. The song was first heard as the title track to a solo acoustic album Springsteen released in 1995.
"High Hopes" is receiving mixed reviews from critics who complain it isn’t as focused as Springsteen’s “project” albums -- ones that have songs based on particular themes or sounds. But Springsteen intended this to be a mixed bag, a collection of what he calls “songs that deserved a home and a hearing.”
“Down In The Hole” is an example. Originally written for the 2002 album “The Rising,” this haunting song didn’t make the final cut because Springsteen didn’t think it fit in with the rest of the tracks.
The organ played on that song is by the late Danny Federici, a longtime E Street Band member who died in 2008.
“High Hopes” also features performances by Clarence Clemons. The saxophonist, who died in 2011, was a cornerstone of the group, a musician Springsteen called his great friend and partner. The late Clemons can be heard on the “Harry’s Place,” another outtake from “The Rising” album.
A few years ago, there were rumors that Springsteen was working on a gospel record. Two of the songs from that project, “Shackled and Drawn” and “Rocky Ground,” made it onto his 2012 album “Wrecking Ball.” “Heaven’s Wall” sounds like it too might have started out as part of the rumored gospel project. Now with Tom Morello’s guitar, it’s found a home.