Newest Review: ... It's a nicely put together piano-led ballad, but it is a little dirge-like and it's only in the last minute where the guitar solo comes... more
Definitely not a rocking ball!
Wrecking Ball - Bruce Springsteen
Member Name: Jojoborne
Wrecking Ball - Bruce Springsteen
Advantages: Great if you're a Bruce fan although might not be what you're expecting
Disadvantages: Not one of his best but still an OK album
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
I've been a Springsteen fan for many years and have seen him live on numerous occasions all over the world.
Wrecking Ball is his seventeenth studio album but more importantly for me it is the one hundred and nineteenth album of my Bruce Springsteen collection. I collect live albums, rare bootlegs and unreleased material as well as the official releases.
I was a fan of the original 'Born in the USA' and by that I mean the original that ninety-odd songs were penned for, which was originally titled 'Murder Incorporated'. It contains much better material and was sadly dumped for the more commercial effort after Springsteen wrote 'Dancing in the Dark' to prove to his manager that he could write a top ten hit if he wanted to. I mention this because I always measure new albums against the Murder Incorporated unreleased material, which I rate as some of Bruce's best work.
So onto the album and believe me I feel uncomfortable not doing a biography of the great man for you to read first; but seeing as that would probably run to over ten thousand words I will stick to the album for my sanity and yours.
The album was released on March fifth 2012 and went to number one in no less than sixteen different countries. It gave Bruce his tenth number one album in America, which equalled Elvis Presley to put him equal third on the all-time list behind The Beatles with nineteen and Jay Z with twelve (yes I said Jay Z - I know, I don't get it either. I couldn't name one Jay Z album and was shocked to find out he had had twelve number one albums).
I found the album to be Ok to listen to but I fear that Springsteen is trying to appease the fans by writing a stadium album again and not totally succeeding to be honest. Maybe because of the raw grittiness of the Murder Incorporated material or the haunting individualism of 'Nebraska', this album comes across as weak compared to them. He made this mistake once before with the double release of the 'Lucky Town' and 'Better Days' albums. They were jolly and likeable but had no real teeth as far as a Springsteen album was concerned. Critics have called this Bruce's angriest album yet but to be honest I think it is more of a hissy fit as it pans out into some kind of God-loving, bible rant. My review of it is probably angrier than Bruce's lyrics or the album.
Bruce chose to use session musicians for this album and the E-Street band are mostly absent. Clarence Clemons appears on two tracks, which he recorded on before his sad death and Patti Scialfa, Bruce's wife and E-Streeter, provides backing vocals on eight tracks, including the vocal arrangements on two of them. Little Steven (backing vocals and mandolin) and Max Weinburg (Drums) also feature on three tracks.
Wrecking Ball - The Album
Track One - We Take Care of Our Own - 3.54
The first track practically prances onto the album and is reminiscent in beat of 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out' and not unlike 'Mary's Place' in its feel. The chorus lyrics of 'We Take Care of Our Own' is really catchy and the track grows on you instantly. It really has that E-Street feel to it and is classic Bruce; which is perhaps a little surprising as the E-Street Band themselves aren't playing on it. This track was the first single to be released from the album on January nineteenth 2012. . Soozie Tyrell (long-time collaborator on Bruce albums with her violin) provides backing vocals on this track along with Bruce's wife Patti. I like the fact that Bruce is again ripping into the American government and dares to suggest that they don't really take care of their own at all. This is probably the most 'Bruce of old' track on the album and I felt a spark of excitement on listening to the rest.
'From Chicago to New Orleans. From the muscle to the bone. From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome. There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home. There ain't no one hearing the bugle blowin. We take care of our own. We take care of our own. Wherever this flag's flown. We take care of our own.'
Track Two - Easy Money - 3.37
A slow drum beat to start this song and then Bruce kicks in sounding like a drunken southern cowboy. Sounds like a track that belongs on 'The Seeger Sessions' album, which I wasn't too keen on. Soozie, Patti and Antionette Savage provide backing vocals and the whole thing sounds like a line-dancing hoedown in a back barn on some ranch. Not for me this track.
'You put on your coat, I'll put on my hat, you put out the dog, and I'll put out the cat. You put on your red dress for me tonight, honey; we're going on the town now looking for easy money. There's nothing to it mister, you won't hear a sound, when your whole world comes tumbling down, and all them fat cats they just think it's funny, I'm going on the town now looking for easy money.'
Track Three - Shackled and Drawn - 3.46
Another farm workers hoedown and the able starts to lose a little credibility with me. Don't get me wrong, if that is what Bruce is trying to do then fine but I just get side-tracked by imagining loads of en-masse line-dancing in the middle of a football stadium at one of the tour gigs for this album. That was the main reason I stayed away from the Seeger Sessions tour to be honest. Thank God that he chose to play some songs with grit at Pink Pop in Holland this year. The 'I want you to stand up and be counted tonight' vocals of the evangelistic preacher at the end of this track does nothing for me either; I don't think any other atheist fan of Bruce would either.
'Great morning light splits through the chain. Another day older and closer to the grave. I'm closer to the grave and come the dawn. I woke this morning shackled and drawn.'
Track Four - Jack of all Trades - 6.00
A slow ballad for the next track and a welcome release from the cotton eyes Joe antics of the last two tracks. This is a slow track, reminiscent of the Tom Joad album. It has a heady guitar solo near the end and is a lengthy track at six minutes long. Although it is a relief to get away from the farmyard songs, this is not really the track to perk the album up. While the other 2 previous tracks are annoying they can't be accused of being dull, whereas on first listen this track is a pretty morbid affair. I dare say this will grow on me though when I am in one of my acoustic moods as there is no one better than Bruce when it comes to that. I saw him play an acoustic set at the Royal Albert hall with about ten different acoustic guitars racked up behind him and he was sensational.
'I'll mow your lawn, clean the leaves out your drain, I'll mend your roof to keep out the rain, I'll take the work that god provides, I'm a jack of all trades, honey, we'll be alright.'
Track Five - Death to my Hometown - 3.09
OK, so now we move from farmers and cowboys to what sounds like a swashbuckling pirate epic to be sung on a ship while full of booze, no doubt, me hearties. At this point during my first listen to the album, I was losing track of what Bruce is trying to accomplish with this album and long for a 'Badlands' or 'Thunder Road' to leap out at me in the coming tracks.
'No cannonballs did fly, no rifles cut us down. No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground. No powder flash blinded the eye, no deafening thunder sounded, but just as sure as the hand of god, they brought death to my hometown.'
Track Six - This Depression - 4.08
A real slow drum beat kicks off the track and is accompanied by Bruce's heavy, deep tones and Patti and Soozie on backing vocals. I must say that on first listen it lives up to the title and I'm beginning to wonder at this point if Bruce has created a dud. I never like to judge anyone upon first impression and I think that is an awful trait to own, so I knew I would listen to the album on numerous occasions before making up my mind. Bruce is one of my heroes and just the fact that he is still rocking into his sixties is testament to the man and his outlook on life. This sis a slow track and not for everyone.
'Baby, I've been down but never this down. I've been lost but never this lost. This is my confession. I need your heart in this depression. I need your heart.'
Track Seven - Wrecking Ball - 5.49
So onto the album track and the song kicks in and immediately sounds like a Bruce song and an E-Street track. This is probably due to the fact that Max is on drums and Little Steven on lead guitar. Soozie also weighs in with her violin and partakes in backing vocals with Patti again. I like this track and I can see why it was decided that this would be the album title and lead track. It is not a rock epic by Bruce's standards but the E-Street Band members influence is as obvious as a chip in a chip packet and it works. Perhaps the most obvious and poignant thing about this track is Clarence Clemmons on his saxophone.
'I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I've seen champions come and go So if you got the guts mister, yeah if you've got the balls If you think it's your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball.'
Track Eight - You've Got It - 3.49
Bruce is straight into this track with acoustic guitar and that familiar rustic voice. Electric piano kicks in (Sadly not Roy Bittan) and Cliff Norell plays his tuba and adds backing vocals. Another slow track with a big-band feel in the middle and reminiscent of Bruce in relaxed mode. Not a bad little track and keeps the album on the up after the title track.
'No one ever found it, ain't no school ever taught it No one ever made it, ain't no one ever bought it Baby you've got it, baby you've got it Come on and give it to me.'
Track Nine - Rocky Ground - 4.41
Track nine is the first of two tracks which feature the 'Victorious Gospel Choir' and they sound damn good to be honest. I say that as I am not religious at all but I like a gospel choir as long as they are not rambling on about God and Jesus. The chorus is quite addictive and Bruce sounds great on this track. It could do without one of the choirs Kanye impressions half-way through but it isn't too bad saying that. This is a likeable track and the solo choir singer at the end is reminiscent of the little African girl at the start and end of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gary Barlow's charity song 'Sing'. This track was released as the second track from the album on April 21st 2012.
'Rise up shepherd, rise up. Your flock has roamed far from the hills. The stars have faded, the sky is still. The angels are shouting "Glory Hallelujah". We've been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground, we've been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground.'
Track Ten - Land of Hope and Dreams - 6.58
Another typical Bruce song that is reminiscent of work from 'Working on a Dream'. This is probably due to the fact that this song has been re-written and revamped on numerous occasions as it was written over ten years ago and was originally meant for 'The Rising' album. This track is a little more upbeat than the last and the choir again sound good. The first time I heard this almost brought a tear too my eye as the saxophone solo is so obviously 'The Big Man', Clarence Clemmons, recorded before his sad death. He had already appeared as mentioned on track seven but something about his solo hear really makes you think of him if you're a fan. Anyone who has seen him live with the E-Street Band will know what I mean. The longest track on the album and a tribute to Clarence in my eyes. He was Bruce's best friend for many years so I can only begin to imagine what he must have felt when editing and recording this track. Clarence sadly passed away in June 2011.
'Grab your ticket and your suitcase. Thunder's rolling down this track. Well you don't know where you're goin' now, but you know you won't be back. Well darlin' if you're weary, lay your head upon my chest. We'll take what we can carry, and we'll leave behind the rest. Well, big wheels rolling through fields, where sunlight streams, meet me at the land of hope and dreams.'
Track Eleven - We Are Alive - 5.36
Max joins in on this track again on the drums. A moody start that livens up with an acoustic guitar and Bruce whistling. A nice little ditty to finish off the album. Again, it's not going to set the world alight but will be enough to satisfy us Bruce fans when we want to relax and chill. It reminds me of a spaghetti western with the banjo included and the whistling in the background. The trumpets give it that slight Mexican feel as well. This track really grows on you the more you listen to it.
'There's a cross up yonder up on Calvary Hill. There's a slip of blood on a silver knife. There's a graveyard kid down below, where at night the dead come to life. Well, above the stars they crackle in fire, a dead man's moon throws seven rings. Well, we'd put our ears to the cold grave stones, this is the song they'd sing: We are alive, and though our bodies lie alone here in the dark, our spirits rise to carry the fire and light the spark, to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.'
The album can be purchased with two bonus tracks 'Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale) and 'American Land'.
As this is a review of the 'Limited Edition', this is the case.
Track Twelve - Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale) - 5.28
Soozie, Pattie and Cliff Norell are again involved in this one and it is another track that offers little in way of 'rocking out' out and is more in tune with Bruce's direction at this moment. It has its moments as most tracks on the album do but it's not really one for me and too biblical again.
'I fell asleep on a dark and starlit sea, with nothing but the cloak of God's mercy over me. I come upon strange earth and a great black cave; I dreamt I awoke as if buried in my grave. We've been swallowed up, we've been swallowed up, disappeared from this world, we've been swallowed up.'
Track Thirteen - American land - 4.25
This track has been floating around on tour since the Seeger Sessions and for that reason I don't like it and knew I wouldn't. I had already heard it live and didn't like it but the album version is even more dire for me. The lyrics are Ok but again the folk element puts me off.
'What is this land of America, so many travel there? I'm going now while I'm still young, my darling meet me there. Wish me luck my lovely, I'll send for you when I can and we'll make our home in the American land.'
As an album 'Wrecking ball' is not too bad and I'm sure it will grow on me over time but it is nowhere near some of the past albums in terms of listenability and longevity. I think Bruce makes albums for himself these days and more power to him but I liked the Bruce that made music for his fans. I suppose that he, inevitably, had to slow down some day and as he gets older he is mellowing out into a folksier singer than a rock star. I didn't like the religious side to the album as I can't stand religion as it has high jacked the sanity of enough people as it is over the years and I can do without listening to music that preaches to a piece of fiction. Don't get me wrong, each to their own and I have nothing against people who are religious but it's not for me and I feel like shaking them out of it to do something real with their lives and talk to someone who answers back. The album is also a little too folksy for me and as I mentioned earlier I prefer Bruce's rock stuff even though I am a big fan of Nebraska and the acoustic side to his music. I think the folk sound comes from the Sessions band from the Seeger Sessions album, which I didn't really like, so that may be why I feel this way.As far as the album is concerned overall, it is a good effort but not one of his best in my opinion.
Summary: Bruce let's out his angst on American Society, albeit angst of the rock, paper and scissors variety!