Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Party Lights"

Keep that hype train chugging!  So, to date, we've got three major updates regarding The Ties That Bind.  First, there was the initial announcement, which cam along with the previously unreleased "Meet Me In The City",  That was followed by a clip of "Ramrod" from the Tempe concert.  Finally, it was announced Bruce would be playing on Saturday Night Live (and another live performance, this time of "The River", was also dropped).  Now, we've got another new track, "Party Lights".  Sounding a bit like someone took "Take 'Em As They Come", "Jackson Cage", "Janey Don't You Lose Heart", and "I Wanna Be With You" and smashed them all together, it's a very solid song (although I prefer "Meet Me In The City").  Either way, it's yet another nice treat to satisfy the Springsteen die-hards this holiday weekend, as they patiently await seeing the Ties That Bind documentary on HBO, Bruce on SNL, and, hopefully, any news about live dates.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Album Review: The Ghost of Tom Joad

Today marks the 20th anniversary of The Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce's 11th studio album, and second acoustic album, following 1982's Nebraska.  Coming after the dual release of Human Touch and Lucky Town, this album came out at arguably the nadir of Springsteen's popularity.  While Bruce would later regain his swagger seven years later on The Rising (discussed extensively on this blog), today is a time to look back on 90s Bruce.

The Ghost of Tom Joad is an album that I have listened to very little, and have discussed even less.  In fact, in the process of writing this review, I realized that I was missing a couple tracks.  And after a few listens, I find myself, unfortunately, with very little to say on the album.

The album starts off very strong, with album stand-outs such as the title track, "Straight Time", and "Youngstown".  (It is notable to point out that "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "Youngstown" would eventually be worked into full-on rock songs, versions that this author prefers).  There is a lot of strong lyrics on this album, too.  For example, the "where there's a...." part in "The Ghost of Tom Joad", while lifted from the book, is particularly strong - so strong, in fact, you can find similar sentiments in future songs such as "The Wrestler" and "We Are Alive".  Bruce's musical work here excels when there is a band accompaniment, as they add diversity and flourish to a rather bleak album.

However, the back half of the album drags, as many songs begin to blend together.  The formula is the same on many songs: Bruce's voice is high in the mix, an acoustic guitar plinks in the background (sounding like a guitar-practice progression), and the songs go on without a strong beginning or ending.  A string of songs like "Balboa Park", "Dry Lightning", and "The New  Timer" just waft over me, and it is difficult for me to find anything that stands out musically.

Ultimately, I don't find this album offering much new to me; the bleak, stark storytelling was explored much better on Nebraska, and Nebraska had a bit more diversity of sound on it, from the Suicide-esque yipping on "State Trooper" to the random rockabilly track "Drive All Night".  Even Devils & Dust, which owes some of it's sound to this album, has a few more memorable tracks than this one.  While there's no offensively bad song on the album (although "My Best Was Never Good Enough" is a bit cheesy), I'd rank it last among the Bruce acoustic trilogy.  

However, having not really discussed this album much, I contacted the other writers on Legends of Springsteen.  Both OB and Steve agreed - The Ghost of Tom Joad was their favorite of Springsteen's acoustic albums!  This came as a shock to me, so let's put it to you, the reader: how would you rank Springsteen's acoustic albums?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Breaking News - Springsteen to Play SNL, 12/19 (Also, a 3 Month Tour!)

Yesterday, Springsteen announced that he would be performing on Saturday Night Live on December 19th, with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Even though The River is probably the least classic of Springsteen's classic albums, I must say I am loving the hype around the upcoming box set (moreso than last year's Outlaw Pete hype).  Speaking of hype, Springsteen also released another performance from the Tempe tour that will be on the aforementioned box set:

Here, we get a new piano introduction for the song, leading up to the iconic harmonica.  There aren't many performances of "The River" that would rival that from the 1975-1985 live set, but this is pretty darn close.

EDIT TO ADD: There's also a three month tour coming!  No dates or cities announced yet, but man, this is quite a shock.  I am still processing it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Video Spotlight - "Ramrod" in Tempe, 1980

The hype train for the River box set keeps on rolling.  Here, we have a jocular performance of "Ramrod" from the River tour in 1980.  Taking place in Tempe, Arizona, we see Bruce with long sleeves and Clarence Clemons in his "I just had an interview for an insurance company" suit.  This is just a small snippet of a 2 hour and 40 minute concert DVD that will be included in the box set.

Another interesting note is that I am now married to a girl from Tempe.  Since this post is really short, I'll fluff it up by telling you that Tempe is pronounced "tem-pee", not "tem-pay".  There, now this post looks like an appropriate length.