Friday, January 31, 2014

A Springsteen Song For Every NFL Team

With the Super Bowl in New Jersey, what better way to celebrate your love of the NFL than with a Springsteen song for every team!  Now, some of these are a stretch, but we'll explain along the way!

New York Jets - "New York City Serenade"

The Jets always struck me as more "New York" than the Giants, so we'll give them this song.  Plus, there's a way better one for the Giants later on.

Buffalo Bills - "Buffalo Gals"

Yes, cover songs are permitted.

New England Patriots - "Chimes of Freedom"

They are patriots, and they love freedom!  Well, it was either than, or "Murder Inc." for Aaron Hernandez.

Miami Dolphins - "Bobby Jean"

This song was written as a tribute to Steven Van Zandt, whose nickname was "Miami Steve".  This is the first of, I assure you, many ridiculous leaps.

Pittsburgh Steelers - "A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Pittsburgh)"

Just read the title.

Baltimore Ravens - "Hungry Heart"

One of Springsteen's most iconic lines: Got a wife and kids in Baltimore Jack...

Cincinnati Bengals - "Kitty's Back"

The Bengals are part of a cat family, as are kittens.  Stick with me!

Cleveland Browns - "Johnny 99"

The judge in this song?  Mean John Brown.  Also, being a fan of the Browns can seem like a life sentence.

Indianapolis Colts - "Lucky Town"

Andrew Luck.  Horseshoes are lucky.  Lucky Town.  Easy choice, right?

Jacksonville Jaguars - "Jackson Cage"

I already used "Kitty's Back" for the Bengals.  "Jackson" in both the song and the city is good enough for me.

Tennessee Titans - "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"

Another reach.  They both start with "Ten".  Don't complain, Titans fans; it's still a fantastic song.

Houston Texans - "Galveston Bay"

It's close to Houston.  Duh.

Kansas City Chiefs - "Mary Queen of Arkansas"

Arkansas.  ArKANSAS.  Here's you song, dudes.

Oakland Raiders - "Goin' Cali"

Of the three California teams, I'm giving this to the Raiders, for no particular reason.

San Diego Chargers - "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"

San Diego is honored by getting a direct shout-out in a fantastic song.  I know a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way.  Another option was "The River", in honor of Philip Rivers, but screw that guy.

Denver Broncos - "Pony Boy"

One of Bruce's more homo-erotic song goes for one of the two teams named after horses.  I was considering "Old Dan Tucker", since Peyton Manning is an old man chucker and "Rocky Ground" for the Rocky Mountains.

New York Giants - "Wrecking Ball"

The most obvious pick on the list, as the song was written as a tribute to Giants Stadium, and specifically gives the Giants a shout-out.

Dallas Cowboys - "Black Cowboys"

Again, the team name is in the title.  Let's not over-think this.

Philadelphia Eagles - "Streets of Philadelphia"

The NFL East teams have been all slam-dunks so far.

Washington Redskins - "Blinded By The Light"

"Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer..." Yeah, I don't know what it means either.

Detroit Lions - "Lion's Den"

An underrated Springsteen romper for this overrated team that gets romped.

Chicago Bears - "We Take Care Of Our Own"

Chicago gets out mention in this song.  This was a tough one to figure out - Springsteen just doesn't write enough songs about bears.

Minnesota Vikings - "Outlaw Pete"

This is an enormous stretch, but here we go: Adrian PETErson, Outlaw PETE.  Eh?  EH?  Let's hope AP plays there forever, because I can't think of another song for this team.

Green Bay Packers - "Out In The Street"

The main character in this song is loading crates down on the dock.  I guess if you are loading crates, you are technically packing things.  Right?  Again, there aren't many Springsteen songs about cheese.

New Orleans Saints - "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City"

There was a surprising amount of Springsteen songs featuring saints, but I'll just stick with this classic.

Carolina Panthers - "All I'm Thinkin' About"

This is the song where Springsteen is sipping blueberry wine in Carolina.  But you already knew that.

Atlanta Falcons - "One Step Up"

I really had no idea what to pick for this song, so I just found a random Springsteen song that mentioned "birds", since, you know, falcons and what not.  Plus, "one step up and two steps back" seems to sum up this franchise to a tee.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - "Better Days"

"Now a life of leisure and a pirate's treasure don't make much for tragedy..."  I could have given this to the Raiders, but California has its fair share of songs, while Florida is largely ignored.

San Francisco 49ers - "This Land Is Your Land"

"From California, to the New York islands..."  Also, hippies love this song.

Arizona Cardinals - "I'm On Fire"

Because it is hot in Arizona!

St. Louis Rams - "Ramrod"

Another simple "team name is in the title" choices.

Seattle Seahawks - "Who'll Stop The Rain"

It rains in Seattle!

And, I'm done!  Some of those choices fit like a glove, and some fit like a glove that was worn by someone with really fat hands before they gave it to you.  I hope you enjoyed it, and let me know if you have any more appropriate choices in the comments.  Without further ado, here are our fairly uneducated Super Bowl picks for this year:

OB: Denver 35, Seattle 31
Rory: Denver 24, Seattle 17
Steve: Denver 31, Seattle 28

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, an American music legend (and major influence on Bruce Springsteen, among others), passed away yesterday.  As you can see in the video above, he was still going strong, performing until the very end.  I'd like to take this moment to humbly thank him for his contributions to our culture.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Album Review - Working on a Dream

At times, the Internet can be a very negative place.  Like Louie CK said, people will just spout off mean comments to a monitor screen and feel no remorse as they do not see the anguish they cause.  Furthermore, if you cause a stir on the Internet, you'll garner more of those coveted pageviews, so people are incentivized  to generate controversy, and being a Negative Nancy is a fairly easy way to ruffle people's feathers.  I've been very proud of the work at Legends Of Springsteen over the last two years, as we have maintained a positive attitude (well, not always) while being completely honest in our thoughts and opinions about Springsteen.  With that being said, I hesitated before taking on the task of reviewing Working on a Dream.

Five years ago today, Working on a Dream, Springsteen's 16th studio album, was released.  There was a massive promotional campaign behind it, and, given its timing, it could have been called Obama's Inauguration: The Soundtrack.  In order to sell the album, they pulled out all the stops, from Springsteen's fantastic Super Bowl performance, the inclusion of a Golden Globe winning song, and a sprawling tour featuring an epic five-night stand to close out Giants Stadium.  And, it was five years ago today, that I began my hatred for this album.

My initial impressions of the album were: this is too nice.  Springsteen's too happy.  Gone was the angst, frustration, and sadness that made Magic one of my favorite albums just a year-and-a-half earlier.  Every other song seemed to be about how fantastic everything was: his day was lucky, he fell in love at the supermarket, and he was throwing someone a surprise birthday party!  I immediately dismissed it as the worst Springsteen album ever, and, aside from "The Wrestler", I never found myself playing any of the songs again.

But, as Mark McGwire said, I'm not here to talk about the past.  With the five year anniversary coming up, I decided to dust off the old section of my computer where Working on a Dream lies and give it another double-click.  I tried to keep as open of a mind as possible, and the results surprised me:

I liked a few songs.

"What Love Can Do" is a Goo Goo Dolls-esque rocker, which, for those who know me, is actually a compliment.  It's simple, catchy, and, most importantly, short.  Many times on the album, the songs have a good idea, but they last too long and the song becomes boring, such as "My Lucky Day", "This Life", and "Outlaw Pete" (which I thought reached its conclusion three times before it actually did).  "What Love Can Do" is a song I didn't even remember before going into this review, so I had no preconceived notions to battle against.  There were, however, two songs I did a complete reversal on: "Working on a Dream" and "Kingdom of Days".

I was actually shocked by how much I enjoyed "Working on a Dream" when re-listening to the album.  It is very sweet and gentle, and I can easily see how it was adapted into a lullaby.  Bruce's voice also sounds incredible in this song, as he sings softly, without the growling and shouting that are trademarks of every Springsteen impressionist.  As for "Kingdom of Days", I recall debating this fellow writer Steve at the time, where I got too hung up on the lack of subtlety in the "I love yous".  However, the song has some fantastic lyrics, making it a strong choice for a wedding like "Happy" and "If I Should Fall Behind" (in fact, far-to-infrequent contributor James did have this song played at his wedding).

Unfortunately, these three songs were all the positivity I could take.  My initial thoughts of the album were that it was too "happy", and, five years later, this remains unchanged.  Following "Outlaw Pete", we are treated to five songs, about 20 minutes, of Bruce loving the world.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a dour man, but after wave after wave of good-feelings, the dark tones of "Good Eye" were a welcome respite, even though it has an annoying distorted vocal.  And, shortly after that, it's back to the good moods with the honey-dripped "Tomorrow Never Knows".  The overt sweetness and lack of variety makes this a tough album to get through.

Additionally, this album features some songs that are so bad, they elicit laughter.  "Outlaw Pete" has some good ideas, but those ideas were already covered in KISS's "I Was Made For Loving You".  Aside from that, it is eight-and-a-half minutes dedicated to man who's introduced as a Coen-brothers-esque baby bandit.  "Queen of the Supermarket" reminds me of the classic Dana Carvey skit where he's making up a song on the spot.  "Surprise Surprise" seems like one of those songs characters would sing in a television show when they couldn't pay for the rights to sing the "Happy Birthday" song.

Overall, it was a very up-and-down experience to go back and listen to this album five years later.  For every song that got me thinking "Hey, this isn't too bad", there was another that was even worse than I remembered it.  It may not be Bruce's worst album of all time, but I still can't fully endorse it.  I would give it two dreams out of five.  That being said, if you'd like to order the album, click on the Amazon banner below!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Video Spotlight: Ain’t Good Enough for You (Live in Gijon – 6/26/13)

Well, it’s Annual “Ain’t Good Enough for You” Day over here at Legends of Springsteen (see 2012 and 2013). Diverting from the past two years, we’re highlighting a rare live performance today.

Ever since hearing it on The Promise, I’ve hoped for an opportunity to see "Ain't Good Enough for You" performed live. One time at the Izod Center, he started to play “So Young and in Love” and I momentarily thought it was the beginning of “Ain’t Good Enough for You.” Alas, I’m still holding out hope. But I am pleased that he’s played it in a few of his European shows and that video exists.

The opening of this video shot in Gijon, Spain conveys exactly what I imagined it would be like to see it live. The crowd cheering in unison, the hands flying, Bruce strutting around like a goofball. It’s all there.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Video Spotlight: "Sun City"

So 2013 kind of ended on a bummer, with the death of Nelson Mandela.  No matter what side of the political spectrum you land on, I think just about everyone can agree that he was a great political figure for tolerance and peace.  His death was greatly mourned, and rightfully so, by the entire world.

But in 1986, when apartheid was alive and well in South Africa, Stevie Van Zandt stepped up and wrote this defiant song.  While Rod Stewart, Queen, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, and others were playing the lavish Sun City resort (despite a cultural boycott issued by the United Nations), Little Stevie had the courage to stand up and say "No!" to a major venue.  He not only pledged not to play it, but wrote an anthem pledging not to play the casino/resort that was built on the back of slave labor.

As he wrote the song, Van Zandt named names of the artists who had played there, obviously attempting to shame them, but in the end he decided to make the song "a song about change not charity, freedom not famine."

And so the song moved forward with a hip hop and R&B influence, while still maintaining a pure E Street sound.  In addition to being written by Van Zandt, the song features Bruce and Clarence in addition to Miles Davis, Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, The Fat Boys, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run DMC, Peter Gabriel, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Jackson Browne and then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Peter Wolf, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil-Scott Heron, Nona Hendryx, Pete Townshend, Pat Benatar, and Joey Ramone.  All of them, pledging not to play Sun City.

With Bruce playing South Africa this weekend, and the recent death of Mandella, I would not be shocked at all if Bruce pulled this song out at all one of the nights.  But again, when Bruce plays live nothing is expected and nothing is off limits either.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick Takes: High Hopes (OB)

So after listening to High Hopes for a full week I find myself fairly underwhelmed by the album, but still listening to it.  Like most people who have reviewed the album, I'm fairly split on my opinions of it.  What's good, ("Just Like Fire Would" and "Hunter of Invisible Game") is great.  Some of Bruce's best stuff since Magic.  But what's bad ("41 Shots" and "Harry's Place") is pretty abysmal.

Before I break it down, track by track, a little bit on the background of this album.  This has to be the least hyped Bruce album of recent memory.  I saw very little press coverage to promote this album.  Most of my friend's didn't even know Bruce released a new album until his fantastic appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.  Granted, they aren't Bruce fanatics like Rory, Steve and myself but they are casual fans nonetheless.  Hell, even I had to keep reminding myself in the weeks leading up to the release that Bruce had a new album coming out.  Fortunately, due to a fanatical fanbase and his great appearance on Fallon, it seems Bruce is about to score his 11th Number 1 album in the United States.  He's already Number 1 in the UK, and a number of other European countries.

And now, the tracks...

1.  "High Hopes"-  Not a fan of this at all.  I loved both lead singles from Working On A Dream and Wrecking Ball ("My Lucky Day" and "We Take Care Of Our Own", respectively).  In the end, I found the albums did not live up to the excitement I had for the album.  So now I've got a lackluster lead single, on an album that has minimal promotion...not the best start to an album.  Rating:1.5/5

2.  "Harry's Place"-  Complete and utter crap.  This might top "57 Channels" as my least favorite song ever released.  Like Steve said in his review, the song is a completely out of left field and very much in the style of Dire Straights.  So kudos to Bruce for experimenting, and trying something new.  Now, never do a song like this again.  The only plus of this song, is the posthumous work of Clarence Clemmons.  Rating: 0.5/5... and it's not even the worst song on the album...

3.  "41 Shots (American Skin)"-  This song has been written about numerous times on this blog so I won't get into the background of this song, and I'll just review it.  The song is one of Bruce's most controversial, but to me the live release from Live In New York City, is one of Bruce's most powerful performance.  Unfortunately all of that emotion is lost on this studio version.  I really liked when  "American Land" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" got studio treatment on Wrecking Ball and they were welcome additions to the Springsteen Library.  This version is not.  It's overproduced and loses all the emotion of the Live In New York City version.  It's the worst song on the album, and if it weren't for the iconic live album version, this would go down as Bruce's worst work, in my opinion.  Rating: 0/5

This is not a good start to the album...

4.  "Just Like Fire Would"-  Just when I was ready to call this Bruce's worst album ever, "Just Like Fire Would" saved it.  Not only saved it but completely revived it.  A cover of a song I've never heard, by a group I've never heard of, and it's one of Bruce's top 5 songs of recent memory.  This song will bring the house down, and in my opinion, get the "Waiting On A Sunny Day" and "Shackled And Drawn" treatment in the set list for the upcoming live shows to really get the crowd going and into the show.  Rating: 5/5.  This song alone, saved this album.

5.  "Down In The Hole"-  I don't hate this song, but I hate where it's placed on the album.  After getting all pumped up from "Just Like Fire Would", this really brings me down.  It's a good song, reminds me a lot of "World's Apart" from The Rising, but it just should be somewhere else on the album.  It's far from perfect though, and is another song that suffers from overproduction.  Rating: 2.5/5.

6.  "Heaven's Wall"- Rocky Ground 2.0.  That's the best description of this song that I can come up with.  It's got a very gospel, spiritual feeling to the song.  Also it's an average song, that was really improved upon when performed live on Fallon.  This song will be a staple of the set list on the upcoming live shows, and probably even get a primo spot in the encore.  Rating 3/5.

7.  "Frankie Fell In Love"-  If another artist wrote this song it would sound like a novelty song.  But this short, up tempo rocker, with some of the sweetest, most over the top (in a good way) lyrics is a fantastic song.  Bruce falls back on a trademark of giving a gender-confusing-name to the main character of the song, but then tries something new with including historical figures in a fictional manner in this song.  In this case it's Shakespeare and Einstein discussing the practicality of the beloved Frankie finding the man of her dreams.  Frankie Fell In Love, and so will you...with this song.  Rating 4/5.

8.  "This Is Your Sword"-  With a very Celtic-like sounding intro, I can't help but think Bruce's work with The Dropkick Murphy's rubbed off on him in this song.  Another solid song on this album, with a great sound and lyrics.  It's missing a slight something that I can't put my finger on.  That keeps it from being an elite song but it's still a very good song.  Rating 3.5/5.

9.  "Hunter Of Invisible Game"-  As much as I praised "Just Like Fire Would", with each listen of this track I start to rethink that maybe this is the best song on the album.  I don't know, but both are great and completely different.  I cannot wait to be singing along with Bruce on this somber, acoustic ballad in the (hopefully) upcoming US tour.  Also, this is some of the finest lyrics Bruce has ever written on a metaphoric level.  "Hunter of Invisible Game" should be a regular used term in the English vernacular.  Rating: 5/5.

GREAT run of songs...

10.  "The Ghost Of Tom Joad"-  Like "41 Shots", I'm just going to assume you know the history of this song.  In a nutshell, Bruce wrote it in 1996, released it, Rage Against The Machine covered it, and Bruce has been playing it with Tom Morello on a regular basis since.  The original acoustic is very good, Rage's cover stinks, but Bruce playing it with Tom Morello, takes the original and turns it up to 11 to create pure magic.  It's not like live versions of "Atlantic City" or "Youngstown" where the song gets changed. "Ghost Of Tom Joad" is still the same song basically, but just so much more powerful with Morello, when performed live.  Unfortunately, it loses a lot of that power in the studio.  Not nearly as much as "41 Shots", but it's just not the same.  Rating: 2.5/5.

11.  "The Wall"-  This song is just really forgettable, in my opinion.  Sounds like a song left off of Devils and Dust which wasn't that great of an album to start with.  I am not going to lie, I end up skipping this song most times.  Not out of hatred like other songs, but just boredom.  Rating 1/5.

12. "Dream Baby Dream"-  This one hurts.  There was a time I said this was Bruce's best cover.  I've since changed my mind and given that title to "Long Black Veil".  But still "Dream Baby Dream" is a close second.  The live version, from the Devils and Dust Tour that is.  Unfortunately, like all the other studio version's of live songs on this album, it just doesn't stand up.  The live version has this beautiful desperation of Bruce sitting at the organ and repeating the same lyrics over and over again.  It reminds me a lot of the ending to the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, when he continually proposes to June Carter till she finally sees he's for real, and accepts.  And, criminally, that is just missing from this studio version.  It's not nearly as noticeable as the other two live songs getting studio treatment, but it's still lacking.  Rating: 3/5.

Overall:  I know I've used this joke before on the blog, but I can't remember when so I will use it again:  Sex is like pizza.  When it's good, it's great.  When it's's still pretty damn good!  And that's how I feel about Springsteen.  I will never complain about a new Springsteen album, especially because they are almost always followed by tours.  And like I said, what's good on this album is great!  The best thing about the digital age of media is the reduction of price in buying new albums.  10 years ago, when physical media was dominant and this CD would probably cost $20, I don't know if I could recommend it.  But in today's of iTunes and Amazon downloads, I can wholeheartedly recommend it for nearly half the price!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History - The Good Wife

Any moment in television where a piece of Springsteen’s music is featured is automatically a great moment. But truth be told, the three songs featured in last Sunday’s The Good Wife were pretty disappointing moments.

Even with the understanding that the music integration was routed in a publicity stunt, you’d hope that there would at least be a semblance of artistry in the way the tunes were incorporated. But alas, there was no thematic connection or emotional resonance in this episode. Each instance was blatantly a post-production insertion with no pre-meditated thought during the writing – or even the filming – process.

For the sake of fanaticism, here’s a description of the appearances:

- Three different uses of “High Hopes” as a musical cue, the first of which was just a tease with the opening instrumentals at the beginning of the episode, the other two were just to bridge between scenes.
- Around half way through the episode, “The Ghost of Tom Joad” plays as background music in a bar. I don’t know what kind of bars will play “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, but I want to hang out at them. The music was used to underscore one character spying on another character’s text messages. Just the way Bruce envisioned it when he wrote it!
- Finally, the instrumental opening of “Hunter of Invisible Game” is used to conclude the episode as a melancholic flourish to the case’s resolution.

As for the show itself? Well, I’d never seen an episode of The Good Wife before, so I was pretty confused as to what was going on – both in terms of the court case proceedings and how the characters related to one another. At one point, one character called another character a “douche” which was pretty funny, but other than that I didn’t find much of interest in the show.

Ultimately, this was nothing more than a marketing push. Not a bad one, and I definitely appreciated the opportunity to stream the album a week early, but I wish the integration had been handled more artistically.

If, for some reason, you are still curious to see the episode, you can stream it through

Friday, January 17, 2014

Quick Takes: High Hopes (Rory)

Usually with movies, I try to stay away from reading reviews, so as to avoid possible spoilers and not have my expectations of the film tainted.  However, I didn't follow the same rules regarding High Hopes, as I pored over the Internet to get the critics' takes on the new album.  The reviews were very middling, as Pitchfork gave it a 4 out of 10, and the AV Club gave it a C+.  While Steve's first impressions were generally positive, I was still very wary of the record when going into it.  Surely, it wouldn't be as disappointing as Working On A Dream, but I wasn't expecting anything as strong as Magic.  And, as predicted, that's just where it landed.  It's....okay.

Granted, I've only just begun to digest the album, and my opinion is subject to change over the next few weeks, months, and even years.  But, from my first impressions, High Hopes seems like almost any other album released by aging rock stars - my mind immediately went to Tom Petty's solid-yet-forgettable albums The Last DJ and Highway Companion.  There's a couple of solid songs in here that will be added to a few On-The-Go playlists, such as "Frankie Fell In Love" and "Just Like Fire Would".  My personal favorite so far is "Dream Baby Dream", a simple, slow-building song that reminds me of Girls' "Hellhole Ratrace", where the lyrics become more and more powerful with every repetition.

Unfortunately, I agree with much of Pitchfork's review, as they complain about the over-reliance on studio sounds that sound dated, such as the distorted "Radio Bruce" voice.  Their review is especially on point in their analysis of "American Skin", which is by far the album's biggest misstep.   The live version has become so ingrained in the hearts of Springsteen fans that a studio version was nearly unnecessary.  You lose many of the tiny details that made the live version special, from Bruce's plea for quiet from the crowd to the exhausted sigh about 5 minutes in, right before belting out the line "My boot's caked in this mud."  Like Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me", I'll be sticking with the live version for the foreseeable future.

What ultimately drags the album down is the lack of message.  Nearly every album since the turn of the century has had a unifying theme linking each song.  This, however, just feels cobbled together.  That being said - it is another 56 minutes of new(ish) Bruce music, which is a great way to start any year.  I look forward to hearing what you guys think, and changing my opinion about 50 times this weekend.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bruce On Jimmy Fallon: Beware of Ducks!

As reported earlier this week, Bruce made another comedic appearance on Jimmy Fallon last night.  In it, Bruce answered the most troubling question know to man: would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck?  Fortunately, Bruce has garnered much wisdom on his time on Earth, and provides a well thought out answer:

While there were no Ke$ha parodies, as implored by my fellow writer Steve, Bruce parodies his own song, using it to take some light-hearted jabs at the Chris Christie brouhaha.  The parody shows Bruce's classic "dad humor", as he leans heavily on pee-pee jokes.  But, as always, the highlight of these skits is Bruce's wigs and outfits.  I'd love to see these costumes make a comeback on the tour; they definitely look better than the "man in black" routine we've seen for the last decade or so.

Check out this post for more "Born To Run" TV Moments!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quick Takes: High Hopes (Steve)

It’s fitting that the album cover of High Hopes features two images of Bruce Springsteen. His 18th studio album feels like an auditory journey through the uncanny. At once, this album is unlike any of his other albums and also unmistakably the work of Bruce Springsteen. The Los Angeles Times recently described Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine as “both different and the same.” That’s an apt description for High Hopes.

The opening minute of “Harry’s Place” is the type that makes you sit bolt upright in surprise and yet “High Hopes” – a song that he didn’t even write – seems like the kind of song he could have composed in his sleep.

A collection of covers, cuts, and remakes, the album is a curio in Springsteen’s oeuvre. I doubt that it will ever be treasured by anyone as one of his best. And I wouldn’t argue with the detractors who feel that the album is overproduced, but I would say that there are a couple of gems here and a lot of fun to be had.

When you look at an album like this – or a song like “Rocky Ground” – some might regard it as a desperate attempt by Bruce to connect with an audience that doesn’t care about him anymore. But I see it as the work of a tireless creative who isn’t afraid to experiment at a point in his career when he could so easily sit back and rest on his laurels.

I look forward to digesting the album further over the coming weeks but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts track-by-track…

“High Hopes” – I really enjoy listening to the song, but will it have any pop culture relevance?

“Harry’s Place” – The unexpected, Dire Straights-esque sound reminds me of the shock of hearing “Ain’t Got You” for the first time. It’s also notable for adding another two f-bombs to the Springsteen catalogue.

“41 Shots” – I was completely caught off guard when this song began. I greatly prefer the live version, not just for nostalgic reasons but also for its raw power. On this studio version, the emotion feels too removed.

“Just Like Fire Would” – So far, this is my favorite song on the album. I loved his live version and love this, even though it’s weird to hear a song go from live to studio rather than vice versa. Is the studio version overproduced? Probably. But I really like it. It may be a guilty pleasure but it’s great for toe tapping and air guitar in the privacy of your own home.

“Down in the Hole” – A great, quiet song. It strikes me as the best song on the album, but I need to listen to it more to be certain.

“Heaven’s Wall” – I find it very catchy and one of the clearest examples of a song that sounds so different and yet so similar to his past songs.

“Frankie Fell in Love” – One of Bruce’s shortest songs, it sounds old fashioned and reminiscent of The Everly Brothers.

“This is Your Sword” – I find this to be the least remarkable song on the album. Each time I’ve listened to the album, I have no recollection of this song by the end.

“Hunter of Invisible Game” – I’ve been singing the chorus in my head a lot the past few days and I really like the melody. It might become a favorite over time.

“Ghost of Tom Joad” – The one true “remake” on the album. Have any other artists ever remade their own song to this degree before? It’s the smoothest of the live-to-studio transitions in my opinion.

“The Wall” – Along with “Down in the Hole”, this is quiet and understated, but undoubtedly significant.

“Dream Baby Dream” – I’m undecided on this song. I feel like I should love it but it hasn’t caught on with me yet.

Happy High Hopes Day!

Hello, readers!  I hope you've gotten your hands on Springsteen's latest by now, but if not, feel free to click on this link and it'll take you straight to Amazon to purchase it.  We here at Legends of Springsteen will probably be listening to this album non-stop this week, and will have our thoughts posted shortly.  The initial reviews seem mixed, with the general consensus being that it's more of a B-Sides collection than an actual album, but I will wait until I actually get a chance to listen to it.  So keep an eye out for more in-depth coverage of High Hopes later this week!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Springsteen on Fallon Tomorrow Night

Tune in tomorrow night for Bruce Springsteen's latest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Surely Bruce will play "High Hopes" and the two will have a witty repartee, but the big question is, what pop culture song will the two parody? Jimmy Fallon has exceeded everyone's expectations as a late night host in large part due to his musical prowess and appreciation. On past appearances, Jimmy and Bruce have performed phenomenal duets covering Willow Smith's "Whip Your Hair" and LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It". In both cases, Fallon's interpretations are inspired and musically accomplished. In fact, they improve upon the songs they parody. Who will they target this time? Personally, I'd love to see what they do with a Kesha song. "Die Young" just begs for a melancholy Neil Young rendition and I can just hear Bruce's gruff voice bellowing "I'm yelling timber!" The only way they could disappointment is if they don't continue the tradition. Here's a look back at their rendition of "Whip My Hair".

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sleepytime Tunes: Bruce Springsteen Lullaby Tribute

A few weeks ago, my expecting wife told me that she had been trying to listen to more Springsteen lately now that the baby’s hearing is developing. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

Similarly, I was overjoyed when my wife gave me an amazing surprise present for Christmas… Sleepytime Tunes: Bruce Springsteen Lullaby Tribute.

Contained on the CD are ten tracks of melodic Springsteen covers that will have you quietly rocking out while your baby (hopefully) drifts off to sleep.

I'm impressed with the variety of Springsteen’s catalogue that is represented on the album. I commend The Lullaby Players for choosing recent tracks off Magic and Working on a Dream, rather than just leaning on established classics.

Each track sounds like it could be in the trailer for the latest animated feature from Nickelodeon. In that regard, my favorite is “Radio Nowhere”, which sounds like the theme song to a really awesome adventure across time and space.

Another highlight is “Secret Garden”, whose melody lends itself naturally to a lullaby (but let’s hope the baby doesn't accidentally learn the lyrics). To me, the most puzzling entry is “Pink Cadillac”. I’m not sure how it was chosen, as I imagine it’s less recognizable to most, but I guess it does have a distinct melody. Either way, it’s another track where I hope the baby doesn't learn the lyrics (depending on your analysis of its double entendre).

All in all, this CD is a must have for any Springsteen fans who are expecting. Stay tuned to find out if the baby enjoys it as much as the parent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why I Don't Sing Springsteen Songs At Karaoke Bars

A couple months ago, Steve spotlighted a Springsteen-cinema moment in The Promised Land.  In the scene, John Krasinski fulfills the fantasy of many Springsteen fans: he leads the entire bar in a rousing sing-along to "Dancing In The Dark".  It's a dream all karaoke-ers have had: that, for one shining moment, you will be a rock star in front of a bunch of pleasant drunks.  Sure, you are reading the lyrics off a screen flashing images of scenic mountains, and the microphone can only be heard by those within 15 feet of you, but you are now a hero, creating a memorable moment those patrons will be telling their grandchildren.  Now, like the rest of you, I have had my highs and my lows throughout my karaoke career, but there is one thing I have learned:

Do.  Not.  Sing.  Springsteen.

This statement should raise some eyebrows.  "But Rory, you are a huge Springsteen fan!  Why wouldn't you want to channel your inner E Street (or, perhaps more accurately, your B Street)?  Wouldn't you be able to scoff at the lyrics on the screen, and sing the songs with all your heart?"  Excellent questions, good sir.  Believe me, I've tried forays into Springsteen karaoke, and have never succeeded.  I've had years to dissect these shortcomings, and I've put together my top five reasons why I do not karaoke to Springsteen:

5. Subject Matter: Even the happiest sounding Springsteen songs are often riddled with dark imagery.  On "Thunder Road", there are ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you've sent away; on "Born To Run", you end up singing about death traps and suicide raps.  While Springsteen's choruses can often get people singing along, many songs will contain a couple unexpected lyrics that will have your audience staring somberly into their pint glass, questioning the decisions they've made that have led them to the point in their lives where they are listening to some dope sing Springsteen.

4. He's Not Universally Loved: You might think "I'm Going Down" or "Badlands" will bring the house down, but you will probably end up with blank looks from several bar patrons.  Believe it or not, not everyone loves Springsteen, and even those ambivalent to the Boss might not know songs outside of "Born In The U.S.A.".

3. Long Songs: My rule of thumb is to try to pick karaoke songs under three minutes.  That way, a poor performance is over quickly, and a good performance leaves your audience wanting more.  This is why my usual karaoke go-tos are "Blister In The Sun", "Laid", and "Why Don't You Get A Job".  Unless you can air-saxophone like a champion, "Jungleland" is definitely out of the picture.  The only Springsteen staple that would fit that mold is "I'm On Fire", which is quite the downer.

2. Convoluted Lyrics: I call this the "Baby Got Back" syndrome.  You may think you know all the words, but after the first 30 seconds, it can turn into a giant mess.  I think they only list "Blinded By The Light" in karaoke songbooks to weed out the masochists.

1. YOU ARE NOT BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: This cannot be emphasized enough.  There's only one Bruce Springsteen: his name is Bruce Springsteen, he looks like Bruce Springsteen, and, most importantly, he is Bruce Springsteen.  Singing one of his songs will not magically give you his on-stage charisma.  You attempts at mugging to the crowd and drunken power slides will be met by looks of confusion.  It's like watching Michael Jordan dunk: you can see how he dunks, and you understand the physical mechanics behind it, but it is nearly impossible to replicate.

That being said, should you venture into the world Springsteen karaoke, I would recommend sticking with "Dancing In The Dark" or "Glory Days": these are fairly positive songs, that are well known by most people, are not too long, and have fairly simple lyrics.  (Another pro-tip: in "Glory Days", instead of singing "Think I’m going down to the well tonight", try singing "Think I’m going down to [insert bar name] tonight"; it worked for OB!)  You still won't be Bruce Springsteen, but I won't hold that against you.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Clarence Clemons Day is Next Saturday (1/11)

This past summer, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie officially declared January 11 to be Clarence Clemons day in New Jersey. The New York Times described this act as, "proof that in New Jersey the members of Bruce Springsteen’s band are folk heroes akin to knights of the round table." Personally, this makes me all the more proud to be from New Jersey.

The 11th was Clarence's birthday, and in conjunction with the first ever Clarence Clemons day, writer Shawn Poole launched a petition to get Clarence Clemons on a stamp. The petition ends on January 10, and they are looking to collect 50,000 signatures. If you would like to support the petition, head over to the following website to sign the petition:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tune In to The Good Wife on Jan 12 for New Springsteen Music

Rolling Stone reports today that on January 12 (two days before the release of High Hopes), a new episode of CBS' drama The Good Wife will include three tracks from Bruce's new album. The songs will be "High Hopes", "Hunter of Invisible Game", and the new version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad". In addition, will stream the new album in its entirety beginning this Sunday, January 5.

This reminds me of when another CBS drama, Cold Case, aired an episode entitled "8 Years" featuring nine different Springsteen songs. I didn't saw the episode, and sadly it isn't available for easy streaming online. I've never seen an episode of The Good Wife before, but definitely plan to tune in to see how the new songs are integrated. Bravo CBS!