January 6 update: The Boss is now streaming High Hopes in its entirety a week ahead of its release! Check out the album at CBS.com, including highlights like the ripping new version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and a high-emotion recording of "American Skin (41 Shots)."
Forty years after his iconic debut Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Bruce Springsteen is set to release his 18th studio album. High Hopes, the follow-up to 2012's No.1-charting Wrecking Ball, will be in our hands and ears on January 14 via Columbia, but there's a lot to dissect here.
Recorded in New Jersey, Los Angeles, New York, Australia and Atlanta, High Hopes was recorded, in part, during the singer's Wrecking Ball tour. Despite a constant stream of material throughout his career, Springsteen is known for not repeating himself and High Hopes looks to be no different. Here's everything we know about the highly anticipated release.
1. Tom Morello is basically an E-Streeter now. Springsteen has been bringing the former Rage Against The Machine guitarist on stage to contribute his signature guitar work since 2008, but Morello began regularly appearing with the E Street Band in 2012. For a group that already has three notable guitarists – Springsteen himself, "Miami" Steve Van Zandt and the innovative Nils Lofgren – adding another guitarist would ostensibly clutter things up.
But Morello has masterfully infused his funky tones into the band, and his creative contributions reached a head when he filled in for Van Zandt on the E Street Band's Australian tour in March. Springsteen said that Morello became "my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level."
The end result? Morello is featured on eight of High Hopes' 12 tracks, including the title track (a cover of Tim Scott McConnell's original bluesy number) below. The song was part of the setlist on Springsteen's Australian tour, though a different studio recording of this track was released on Springsteen's Blood Brothers EP in 1996.
2. Cover songs abound. High Hopes sees Springsteen and the band covering three relatively obscure tracks, including "Dream Baby Dream," originally written by New York synth punks Suicide, and "Just Like Fire Would" by Australian punk group the Saints.
Springsteen's played the latter live (on that Australian tour with Morello) and has raved about the former in interviews. He performed "Dream Baby Dream" acoustically on his Devils and Dust tour, and the new studio version functioned as the backdrop to a video released on his website celebrating fans who attended the Wrecking Ball tour.
3. What's old is new again. High Hopes' physical copies include extensive liner notes from Springsteen, revealing that the album was never going to be a new record like Wrecking Ball or Working On A Dream. The Boss writes that he was "working on a record of some of our best unreleased material" when the project escalated into a full-bloown album due to Morello's inspiration.
All the non-cover songs here are old and mostly unreleased – there are even portions of this record that will use previously recorded instrumentals from deceased E Streeters Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. But some of them will be familiar to hardcore Bruce fans. Let's run them down one by one:
- "Harry's Place" is a B-side from The Rising sessions that sounds like it could be an accompaniment to the rocking "Mary's Place," but it didn't end up making the record. The song has yet to be released in any format and the E Street Band has never performed it live.
- "American Skin (41 Shots)" was released as a live recording on the Live In New York City CD / DVD, which chronicled Springsteen's reunion tour with the E Street Band, and later on The Essential Bruce Springsteen compilation. The track was inspired by the violent police shooting of Amadou Diallo and has become a fan favorite in live settings. It was reintroduced during a Tampa, Fla., stop of the Wrecking Ball tour, dedicated to Trayvon Martin, and became a regular part of the setlist on that tour.
- Another holdover from The Rising sessions, Springsteen wrote "The Wall" after visiting the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. He writes extensively about this song in the aforementioned liner notes, and you can check out one of the few known live renditions of it here.
- "The Ghost of Tom Joad" is certainly the most recognizable name in this bunch. It's the title track from Springsteen's 1995 solo album, a record that saw him return to Nebraska's lo-fi sounds. Morello duets with Springsteen on this one, trading vocals back and forth, and we'll probably get a memorable guitar solo as well. Check out a live performance of this one below.
- Other songs included are Springsteen originals "Down In The Hole," "Heaven's Wall," "Frankie Fell In Love," "This Is Your Sword" and "Hunter of the Invisible Game." While the Boss has been tight-lipped about these songs, we do know that they've been previously written and resurrected for High Hopes.
4. The Boss isn't slowing down, somehow. He's 64 years old, has been a popular recording artist for 40 years and his countless live performances range between three and five hours. Bruce Springsteen must have access to some sort of bottomless well filled with creative and physical energy.
Since he brought the E Street Band back together in the late '90s / early '00s, a total of 24 different releases have had the Springsteen name on their covers. Sure, a lot of these are special reissues or remasters of classic albums to celebrate milestone anniversaries – but High Hopes will be his seventh studio LP in that timeframe.
Seven releases in 14 years would be pretty remarkable for an active modern rock and roll act. For Springsteen, who has already released so much music, this output is almost unbelievable. A new album, of course, brings the promise of even more touring...even though he's barely been off the road since 2007's Magic.
We may not know how he's doing it, but we're not certainly not complaining. Springsteen continues to wear the hat of America's favorite blue-collar rock and roll star, and we hope he wears it as long as possible.