Friday, November 29, 2013

Video Spotlight - "Blinded By The Light" in Helsinki, 2012

We're a bit obsessed with Bruce going acoustic here on this blog, and astute readers may notice we are double-dipping a bit here.  I originally posted this in response to Steve's post last month, but figured it was worth going back to during this 4-day weekend.  So, if you missed it the first time around, make sure to take seven minutes away from your family and loved ones and check out this fun, loose, and excellently filmed performance.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Breaking News - "High Hopes" Video Released, New Album Announced

Well, once we were treated to a fantastic studio version of "Dream Baby Dream", the rumors started to swirl.  Today, everything became official: a video was released for "High Hopes", and an album by the same name was announced for January 14th.  Like Wrecking Ball, it's a not-quite-E-Street album, featuring a lot of Tom Morello (he's listed on eight of 12 tracks).  Upon first listen, "High Hopes" has that same "angry mob" sound that characterized Wrecking Ball stand-out tracks such as "Death To My Hometown" and "Shackled and Drawn".  While it isn't as catchy as "We Take Care Of Our Own", this song, as well as the aforementioned "Dream Baby Dream", have me very excited for the new album, and, more importantly, the (potentially) forthcoming tour.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rumors: The Track List for the New Album?

Yesterday, Stan Goldstein culled information from a Springsteen fan forum to put together a possible listing of songs for the new Springsteen album.  I encourage you to click the link for more information; it is very informative with some great Springsteen live clips.  If this listing is true, it makes the album an amalgamation of covers (including a "cover" of "The Ghost of Tom Joad"), songs Springsteen had previously only performed live, and songs cut from other studio albums.  

Now, granted, this is just a rumor, but I've come to believe everything on the Internet is true, even if it contradicts itself.  So, assuming this is true, I'm excited, with a couple reservations, such as creating a studio version of "American Skin" (making it an "only live" song gives it a novel status, and, by setting it apart from the rest of Springsteen's catalog, helps underline the strong message of the song) and the lack of some of my personal favorite Springsteen covers from the past few years (such as "Coma Girl").  However, we are getting about a half dozen new Springsteen songs, so that's nothing to complain about.  In the end, I can't think of a way to end the article without making a terrible "I have....high hopes for this album" joke, so here we go: I have....high hopes for this album.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Song Spotlight: "Out of Work" by Gary U.S. Bonds

Hey, Mr. President, I know you got your plans
You're doing all you can now to aid the little man
We got to do our best to whip that inflation down
Maybe you got a job for me just driving you around

- “Out of Work” performed by Gary U.S. Bonds

In spite of the very Springsteen-esque nature of the above lyrics, I only recently learned that Springsteen actually wrote the song “Out of Work,” a catchy toe-tapper and hit single off of Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1982 album On the Line. In fact, Springsteen is credited with writing seven of the 11 tracks on the album.

The lyrics in “Out of Work” feel timeless, and can really be attributed to any era, but the sound is distinctly ‘80s. According to a WCBS article, “Out of Work” filled the dance floors well into the 1990s. I have no way of saying if this is true, but I hope so. When I hear it now, I keep picturing a montage from a weak ‘80s comedy with Dana Carvey applying for odd jobs and bumbling his way through interviews. Sadly, no such movie exists, but for a light comedy with Dana Carvey, I do recommend Opportunity Knocks.

I couldn’t find any versions of Bruce performing the song, and I’m curious to know if he’s ever played it with Bonds publicly. When Bonds does join Bruce on stage as a guest, their usual collaborations are “Quarter to Three,” “Jole Blon,” and “This Little Girl.”

Below is the studio recording followed by a live version of Bonds performing in Queens in 2008 (complete with a jab at President Bush).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bruce Performing At "Stand Up For Heroes", November 6th, 2013

Today, we're treating you to a longer video, so pull up a chair and relax for 20 minutes.  Earlier this month, Bruce performed with other musicians and comedians at Stand Up For Heroes, a charity event focused on raising money to support troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Here, Bruce performs a stripped down set, featuring an acoustic "Dancing In The Dark", Patti Scialfa assisting him on "If I Should Fall Behind", and "Dream Baby Dream", which seems to be getting heavy promotion recently.  However, rather than the touching, personal stories we are used to from Bruce, each song is introduced by a "dirty" joke.  And, boy, are they groaners - Bruce becomes the proverbial drunk uncle of the party, and you feel forced to laugh if only to not make the situation any more awkward.  At the end of the set, Bruce quips he should have been a stand up comedian.  After seeing this, it is safe to say he made the right choice.

However, in some sense, it is a wistful insight into Bruce's off-stage persona.  In Clarence Clemons' autobiography, he claims that he was the king of dirty jokes.  It is easy to imagine Clarence telling all these jokes to Bruce in a dilapidated bus going to their next gig, and Bruce cracking up like a madman.  So, if you factor in that unsubstantiated sentimental notion into the video, it could make it more enjoyable.  But, you should probably just stick to listening to the songs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Single Announced: High Hopes

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, we have a new Bruce single. Billboard (and various other outlets) reported today that Bruce's next single will release this Monday (11/25). The single is "High Hopes" and many are speculating that this gives truth to the rumors of an early 2014 album release. Nothing in today's announcement gives any indication of this track supporting a full album, so we advise against getting too excited about the prospect of an album. For now, just appreciate the new tune! Many have heard it before (I was nodding my head to it just this past weekend on E Street Radio) as it's been played live in concert and appeared in the documentary Blood Brothers. Interestingly, the track is a cover of a 1990 song by a band called The Havalinas. By my count, this makes it Bruce's third single that's a cover; following "War" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Here's the original song, I imagine we'll see its views skyrocket over the next week.

Edit, 11/19: The track has already leaked.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Song Spotlight: "Miss You C" by Nils Lofgren

E Street Radio on Sirius XM is a bottomless treasure chest of Bruce Springsteen-related music. This past weekend, I heard “Miss You C” by Nils Lofgren for the first time. Nils is known primarily for his work on guitar in the E Street Band and even though he has released several solo albums, many Springsteen fans are not familiar with his vocal work.

As such, this soulful ditty is a great entry point and a quiet tribute to Clarence Clemons. “Miss You C” is a variation of a song called “Miss You Ray” that Nils released on his solo album Old School. It’s a fairly simply tune, but far be it from us to slight a heartfelt tribute to his fellow band member. Oh wait, we just did. Well, pretend we didn’t and give it a listen. Nils very courteously put it up for free download on his official website.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: "Crash and Burn" by Artie Lange

Artie Lange is one of my all time favorite comedians.  From his year on Mad TV (the debut year, when the show was actually fresh and funny), to his movies Dirty Work and Beer League, to, of course, his stand up and 9 year stint on The Howard Stern Show, Artie Lange has been consistently hysterical and brutally honest in his comedy.  His first book, Too Fat to Fish, highlighted those traits excellently.  Also in this book, he talks about what a fanatic of Bruce Springsteen he is.  But mostly in Too Fat to Fish, he is completely open about his demons and vices.  The book ends with him giving the details of him overcoming his addiction to heroin.  The epilogue of the book seems to paint the picture that he might have relapsed but without him admitting it.

That is where this book picks up, with Artie in full blown relapse with pills, alcohol and heroin.  And it never really gets much better for him for the rest of the book.  This is a dark and depressing book.  Throughout the entire book, Artie lies to everyone in his life, promising to get clean only for him to almost immediately relapse.  It culminates on January 2nd, 2010, when Artie attempted to commit suicide.  Artie talks about how burned out he was at his life and career, and basically just wanted to go to sleep for a long, long time.  It isn't until the end of the book, that he finally admits to the readers, and to himself, that he really just did not want to live anymore.

However, it is during his recovery from his suicide attempt, where he is horribly depressed, that he gets a call from Bruce Springsteen.  Artie and Bruce met at the funeral of a mutual friend, who Artie refused to name, and had a brief chat.  It ended with Bruce giving Artie giving advice to clean up his life, because Bruce didn't want to have to go to Artie's funeral.  Bruce came incredibly close to doing just that.

Just when that seemed to be the end of Bruce Springsteen in Crash and Burn, Artie tells the story of going to Paris with his girlfriend to go to see Bruce in concert.  The concert, of course, was great and afterwards Nils Lofgren was able to get Artie backstage, where Artie was able to hang with The E Street band.  After spending some time with them they invite him back to the Four Seasons, where they were staying, for the after party.  It's there that Artie finally gets to have a heart to heart conversation with Bruce.

I bought this book without even knowing Bruce's name would be mentioned, let alone that he would play some an essential part in it.  The Bruce story from this book is worth the price alone.  It ends with Artie finally taking stock in his life and noticing how at the end of the night, a sober Bruce walked his mother, Adele, up to her hotel room.  Artie compares that to his own mother discovering his body after his failed suicide attempt.  After one more alcohol relapse, Artie finally gets clean for what is, hopefully, the final time.

I really hope Artie stays sober, the world is a funnier place with him in it.  I know Bruce would agree with me on that.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Politics In The Age of Springsteen

Author's Note:  As with the other posts on this blog, this entry is mine alone, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other contributors to this blog, or Legends Of Springsteen as a whole.  Thank you.

I'm a conservative.  Calm down, it's not that big a deal.  I tend to vote for the Republican party (Although I am a registered independent, and identify as a Libertarian).  And I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fanatic.  I don't think the two should be mutually exclusive, but alas there are people who are shocked to hear that I am both.

To be honest, I don't feel Bruce is that political of a musician.  I think he points out certain issues but, for the most part, he tends to just point out a problem, and it's up to the listener to decide how it should be fixed.  Now, in concert, Bruce certainly tends to give more of his political opinions.  But when compared to the number of times he encourages fans to just sing, dance, and enjoy themselves it's practically non-existent.

Take a song like "41 Shots (American Skin)".  Most conservatives will tell you that this song is an "anti-police, anti-2nd Amendment, liberal, white guilt" anthem.  I don't get that whatsoever.  This song is simply about what happened to Amadou Diallo. Bruce doesn't say who's right or wrong, anything about gun control, or race.  He simply states the fact that an unarmed man was shot 41 times by police.  I don't care what side of the political spectrum you are on, that's not right.  Some on the far left have called those cops murderers.  Others on the far right have said those cops were just doing their job.  But I think most people fall somewhere in the middle.  I know I do.  Yes, those cops (who have possibly the most difficult job in the world) killed someone, but it wasn't with any malicious intent.  I doubt that makes it any easier for those cops to sleep at night, however.

Bruce brought this song back out early in the Wrecking Ball tour, in honor of Trayvon Martin.  (Note: I started writing this entry prior to Zimmerman being found "Not Guilty") Again, Bruce didn't mention Trayvon, didn't wear a hoodie, didn't mention anything about guns.  However, when he played the opening chords to this song every single person in the arena knew why.  He simply wanted to create discussion.  An unarmed young man was killed.  It's tragic.  I've debated the Trayvon Martin case several times among my friends (I don't think George Zimmerman is guilty of 2nd degree murder and I think the media portrayal of his has been disgraceful), but that doesn't take away from the fact that Trayvon is dead. And that is tragic.  I remember seeing Bruce play this song in 2012 at Madison Square Garden.  Many people in my section booed, heckled, sat down, some even went so far as to give Bruce the finger while he played it.  I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Earlier this week, Chris Christie was re-elected as Governor Of New Jersey.  Christie, an avid Springsteen fan and conservative as well, probably isn't Springsteen's favorite politician but that hasn't stopped Christie from seeing Bruce in concert over 100 times.  And I don't think Bruce's criticisms of the governor has diminished Christie's enjoyment of Bruce's music, as seen here.

I remember seeing Bruce on the Magic tour in the summer of 2008, and several times throughout the night Bruce took a moment to criticize then President Bush, about the poor state the economy and the high number of Americans who were unemployed.  One year later, on the Working On A Dream, when the economy was worse and unemployment was even higher, Bruce did not criticize President Obama once. At the time part of me did think "Nothing to say, Bruce?" But then I thought about it.  Did it really matter?  Would it improve the economy?  Or create millions of jobs?  Nope.  So let Bruce have his opinion, I'll have mine, and let's just enjoy the music.  And that's about the most pacifist thing I've ever said.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Springsteen & I

“Does anyone love their fans as much as Bruce?” That’s the question I posed a few weeks ago when posted a “thank you” video to attendees of the Wrecking Ball Tour cut to an unreleased version of Bruce’s cover of “Dream Baby Dream.” Springsteen & I is a new a crowd-sourced documentary about the emotional connection fans feel to Springsteen. Purposefully, the film opens with with a clip of Springsteen in concert, telling the crowd that he can’t do it without their support. Springsteen & I is equal parts love letter to Springsteen and love letter to Springsteen’s fans.

When the filmmakers announced their call for submissions last November, inviting the entire world to upload video footage describing their connection to Bruce, I uploaded a video of my wife and I having our first dance to “Happy.” A year later, the finished film is so perfect that I’m only a little sad we didn’t make the cut.

The footage of fans’ first-person professions of love is intermingled with a healthy proportion of Springsteen performance footage from different venues and decades. Fans of all ages, races, ethnicities and nationalities are featured in the film. Included in the footage are monologues, three-word descriptions, visual representations, sprawling dialogues, and more. Many of the submissions are charmingly unpolished. Credit goes to the filmmakers that they don’t shy away from displaying a few submissions that teeter on the edge of unhealthy obsession.

Out of the tales, the live concert recollections are definitely the most powerful. I felt ridiculous, but I found myself choking back tears throughout the film. Forget any sentimental Oscar-bait coming out later this year; Springsteen & I is the true tearjerker of 2013. Well, at least for the Springsteen indoctrinated. I’m not sure how non-fans or casual fans would respond to this film – and I’d be fascinated to hear their reactions. Springsteen & I isn’t a life-changing experience. If you’re watching the film, chances are that Bruce Springsteen has already changed your life.

My own memories of concert experiences came flooding back to me throughout the film… Unexpectedly scoring day-of tickets to his first night at the Meadowlands on the Working on a Dream tour and being closer to Bruce than I ever imagined. Taking my Mom to see her first ever Springsteen concert. Watching Bruce blow out candles on his 63rd birthday at 2:00 in the morning after a three-hour weather delay. The ecstatic embrace my wife and I felt in Louisville when we heard “Rosalita” performed live together for the first time.

I’m still sad that I wasn’t able to see Springsteen & I in the movie theater to experience the communal atmosphere that accompanies those concert memories, but seeing it on this stunning Blu-ray is a great consolation. The bonus features include 30+ minutes of concert footage from Hard Rock Calling 2012, which is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone. The performances include a stripped-down, tear-inducing version of “Thunder Road” (introduced by Bruce as the first song he ever played on British soil) and the infamous duet with Paul McCartney on “Twist & Shout” (in all its uninterrupted glory). Between this and the Hard Rock Calling 2009 Blu-ray, I’ve vowed that if he ever plays Hyde Park again, I need to find a way to go see him there in person.

Also included are four uncut fan submissions. Each one is beautiful and artistic in its own way. My favorite is by Rogerio from Brazil. It details his odyssey to see Springsteen in concert through the use of stop-animation. The final special feature involves a few of the lucky fans featured in the movie getting to meet Bruce back-stage after a concert. Bruce interacts with his fans in the kind of personalized, intimate manner you’d imagine based on the many legends of fan-interaction we’ve heard over the years.

Springsteen & I is an accomplishment of diligent curating and masterful editing. The right clip in the wrong place could have seriously derailed the film, but the filmmakers never take a misstep. A sequence containing a man in his car crying as he talks about Springsteen easily could have been risible if it had been inserted with less grace.

Some of the film’s simplest moments are also its most profound. Early in the film, a young girl states that she likes Bruce Springsteen because he puts so much effort into every song. But my favorite part involved a lovesick young man who brought a sign saying “Hi Bruce, I just got dumped.” Springsteen reads the sign and asks the young man, “What happened?” “She didn’t think I was spending enough time with her,” the young man responds. “You probably weren’t,” Bruce advises before giving the man a hug. And that’s the Springsteen wisdom encapsulated. He offers truthful, sobering commentary, but he also offers compassion and comfort.

I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else to sum up the experience of watching Springsteen & I than to merely echo the chorus of voices that conclude the film: “Thank you, Bruce.”

More: Springsteen & I theatrical review

Friday, November 1, 2013

Johnny Cash - "I'm On Fire"

For this Friday, I am spotlighting Johnny Cash's cover of "I'm On Fire".  Referenced in an earlier post, it is a song that is covered frequently.  However, too often artists don't quite own it, and it clearly sounds like they are not singing one of their songs.  Here, in this simple version, the Man in Black makes it his own, with his trademark walking bass line and low, emotional voice.  On a personal note, it is this song that inspired me to listen to more of Johnny Cash's music, showing the importance of cover songs that cross genres.