Springsteen’s B-side collection presents A-side-worthy songs

Staff Writer

Today’s breakneck speed of information has made it possible for society to elevate an artist to the highest of acclaim, then promptly toss them away like a used towelette, so it is wonderful that legends like Bruce Springsteen are still very much in the public eye. Of course, his dogged commitment to touring with the E Street Band (including shows that break the three hour limit) and putting out new and exciting material instead of taking a well-deserved coast is probably the biggest reason for that (though being friends with the President does not hurt).  

Then again, that attitude does not really explain this new release from The Boss, entitled “High Hopes.” It is E Street Chex Mix, a bag of unreleased material, covers and reduxes of iconic Springsteen songs from the past 10 years. Of the latter, “American Skin (41 Shots),” originally about a West African immigrant shot by the NYPD, now becomes a potent eulogy for Trayvon Martin. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” now has Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello singing, strumming, and soloing alongside Springsteen, and the result is powerfully recharged.

But it is the title track that brings home the uncertain struggle of America today, as Springsteen sings: “Tell me someone now, what’s the price/I wanna buy some time and maybe live my life/I wanna have a wife, I wanna have some kids/I wanna look in their eyes and know they’ll stand a chance.”

It is a mystery to me how a lot of this stuff did not get released, personally. The gospel chant of “Heaven’s Wall” is addictive, “Frankie Fell In Love” has a wild and happy feeling reminiscent of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” and “Hunter of Invisible Game” paints a perfect movie-like visual of the Old West. The covers (Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” and The Saints’ “Just Like Fire Would”)are respectable whether or not you know the originals.  

Fans will definitely appreciate this release, especially since late E Street members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici both appear on this. Overall, it is not so much an coherent album as it is the greatest B-side collection of all time. But there are great songs here, and it is the Boss. What else do you need?