Bruce Springsteen has set Jan. 14 for the release of “High Hopes,” a new studio album with some old familiar tunes. The 12 tracks of “High Hopes” will consist of covers of other artists, studio outtakes and new recordings of songs that have morphed during their live presentations. A video of the title track (watch below) was made available on Springsteen’s official website.
Springsteen’s 18th studio album overall, the Columbia Records effort will be the artist’s first since 2012’s “Wrecking Ball.” In liner notes to the album published by Springsteen, he partly credits Tom Morello, the former Rage Against the Machine guitarist who temporarily filled in for Steven Van Zandt when the latter left for acting duties, for accelerating the album.
“Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level,” Springsteen writes. “Thanks for the inspiration Tom.”
It was Morello, Springsteen writes, who encouraged the band to revisit “High Hopes," a gospel-meets-rockabilly number written by L.A.'s Tim McConnell as a member of the Havalinas. An earlier Springsteen recording of “High Hopes” dates to the mid-'90s and surfaced on the 1996 “Blood Brothers” EP. Morello suggested the band add it to the group’s Australian tour, where this version was recorded.
“High Hopes” is one of three covers on the album. It is joined by a rendition of “Just Like Fire Would,” a mid-'80s, mid-tempo rock song from Australian punk band the Saints. Springsteen & the E Street Band have been performing the cut on tour. Also on the album is Springsteen’s take on “Dream Baby Dream” from Suicide, a band he has long professed a love for; Springsteen once used a version of the song as a thank-you letter to fans.
A number of the songs on “High Hopes” have made their way into Springsteen concerts over the years. Some, such as “American Skin (41 Shots),” are relatively well-known, as the latter was inspired by the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo by the New York Police Department. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was heard as the title track on Springsteen’s 1995 solo effort. Both versions here will feature Morello.
“I felt they were among the best of my writing and deserved a proper studio recording,” Springsteen said.
Lesser known is “The Wall,” a song that Springsteen writes is “something I’d played on stage a few times and remains very close to my heart.” The song was inspired by a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to Walter Cichon, a veteran who was also a member of New Jersey rock band the Motifs.
“Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be,” Springsteen wrote. “But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960’s central New Jersey."
The remaining tracks on the album are believed to be studio outtakes. Full credits were not yet revealed, but a press release notes that late E Street members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici will appear on several. The unreleased songs were culled from the decade or so of Springsteen’s recordings with the E Street Band.
“This is music I always felt needed to be released,” Springsteen said. “From the gangsters of ‘Harry’s Place,’ the ill-prepared roomies on ‘Frankie Fell in Love’ (shades of Steve and I bumming together in our Asbury Park apartment), the travelers in the wasteland of ‘Hunter of Invisible Game,’ to the soldier and his visiting friend in ‘The Wall,’ I felt they all deserved a home and a hearing. Hope you enjoy it.”
A full track listing is below. All songs written by Springsteen unless otherwise noted.
1. “High Hopes” (Tim Scott McConnell), featuring Tom Morello
2. “Harry’s Place,” featuring Tom Morello
3. “American Skin (41 Shots),” featuring Tom Morello
4. “Just Like Fire Would” (Chris J. Bailey), featuring Tom Morello
5. “Down in the Hole”
6. “Heaven’s Wall,” featuring Tom Morello
7. “Frankie Fell in Love”
8. “This Is Your Sword”
9. “Hunter of Invisible Game,” featuring Tom Morello
10. “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a duet with Tom Morello
11. “The Wall”
12. “Dream Baby Dream” (Martin Rev and Alan Vega), featuring Tom Morello