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2023/4 Albums Thing 346 - Bruce Springsteen “Wrecking Ball”

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It’s now 2012 and, after a couple of less than stellar records, “Wrecking Ball” sees The Boss reunited with his mojo…There are some real standouts, songs that tell you The Boss is back on it, “Rocky Ground”, “Land Of Hope And Dreams”, “Jack Of All Trades”, the title track…

“Jack Of All Trades” is built out of what Springsteen calls his “magic trick”. In his “…On Broadway” solo show he explained how he wrote all those song about cars and girls and escaping and everyone ate it up and…he couldn’t even drive, that’s the magic trick. He’s so locked into and understanding of his audience that he can write about their hopes and fears and dreams, their lives, that he can work his magic with words. This “Jack Of All Trades” will mow your lawn and mend your roof, he’ll harvest your crops and strip your engine down and rebuild it ‘til it runs sweet again, he gets angry at the world but he can mend and make do, he and his will be alright. Springsteen can’t/doesn’t have to do any of those things but he sings it so convincingly you think he can, like the cars and the girls, the magic trick…and that’s why his audience, why I, love him.

“Rocky Ground” is quite unusual, it’s heavy on religious imagery again (“Forty days and nights of rain have washed this land, Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand”), features a gospel choir (the Victorious Gospel Choir) along with excerpts/samples from "I'm A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord", a gospel song by the Congregation of the Church of God in Christ and recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1942 and, for the very first time on a Springsteen song, a section of rapping. He allegedly attempted the rapping himself (!), but, dissatisfied with his attempts, left it to backing singer Michelle Moore. 

“Land Of Hope And Dreams” was written as far back as 1998. It was played on the 1999 “Reunion Tour” with the E Street Band, it’s on the 2001 live album “Live In New York City” and a version was recorded in 2002 during the sessions for “The Rising”. I’m not sure when this version was recorded but it was definitely prior to June 2011 as it features The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, on Sax. It is a Springsteen, nay, an E Street Band classic. There ain’t many bands that can bring this huge panoramic sound to a song but the best little bar band from New Jersey really can! When Bruce hits the section that starts with “This train, Carries saints and sinners…” and at the end Clarence makes his presence felt its eye wateringly wonderful. It’s also one of Bruces’s great road songs, he’s still travelling just like he was in “Born To Run”, there are still wheels, this time they are “Big wheels rolling through fields where sunlight streams”, but now he knows where he’s going even if that place is the undefined land of hope and dreams. It was in the set when we saw them at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny in 2013 and it felt like righteous modern day gospel music, something to make you believe…in something.

The title track is a tribute to The Meadowlands or to give it it’s actual name, Giants Stadium, an 80,000 seater football stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey (“I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago”) that was originally home to the NFL’s New York Giants from 1976 and later shared with the New York Jets from 1984 to 2009 when both teams moved next door to the purpose built MetLife Stadium. Springsteen and the E Street Band played many, many shows at what came to be known as The Meadowlands and there are recordings from the stadium on “Live/1975-85” from the “Born In The USA” tour. As a Jets fan I’ve never been a fan of the lyric “Here where the blood is spilled, the arena's filled, and Giants played their games” but it’s a bloody great song.

There’s more, “Shackled And Drawn” and “Death To My Hometown” and the shockingly honest "This Depression" in particular. The Wrecking Ball tour was a joy to see when we had a great weekend away in Ireland for it. The gig itself featured video tributes to Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici who both had passed away. 

Some fans regard "Wrecking Ball" as being right up there with Springsteen's classics of the '70's...it's good but to these ears not quite that good. But from here on Bruce Springsteen is back and on a creative high. His next three albums are absolutely superb and in between those he manages to squeeze in a solo residency on Broadway. Let’s get into it shall we…

Land Of Hope And Dreams - https://youtu.be/KHpJhS99Q60?si=s12QWb8o-oeA0fBN

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