Wrecking Ball has been unleashed in its entirety. Obviously all tracks were streamed daily until its release and I had the opportunity to critique each track on a daily basis. Sitting here right now, I am streaming the entire album and listening to it in one sitting for the first time. "I'm lovin' every minute of it Jerry!"
Track 1 -We Take Care Of Our Own
First track and debut single from the album “ We Take Care of Our Own” has already received a huge amount of press and has been widely misinterpreted. The upshot of it is “Where this flag is flown” we DO NOT take care of our own. The lyric “ We take care of our own” is ironic in context when relating to the U.S government. However the song also articulates the fact that the “people” aware that they have been lost and forgotten by the powers that be, will in fact take care of their own in the absence of support from higher authority. Classic catchy anthemic Bruce in all his careful attention to detail and heart felt commentary, that amazingly as in the case of Born In The USA is misinterpreted by folks that just don't listen.
Track 2 - Easy Money
"Easy Money" is reminiscent of a rousing sing along at 2am with a bunch of other Springsteen freaks. I look forward to my family Christmas where no doubt "Easy Money" will feature each family member trying to sing louder than the other in an attempt to reign supreme as the most serious Springsteen fan. The surging folk stylings belie the darkness of the lyrical content that follows the narrator going out to get some " Easy Money". Very Atlantic Cityesque.
Track 3 - Shackled and Drawn
This song does not disappoint. Its rocks and the stomping rhythm will instigate a hell of a lot of thigh slapping whether its turned up loud or not. Shackled and Drawn continues the themes of the American dream versus the American reality and the struggle life has become post GFC. Once again the stomping rhythms and "can't get that song out of my head" musical accompaniment to the darker lyrics make for a powerful message. Lyrically the first verse harks back to the imagery conjured in "Factory" from Darkness on The Edge of Town; "Great morning light splits through the shade, 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." Unsatisfying work or no work at all, the characters still wake up shackled and drawn in both songs. The song is
timeless and universal. It would not be out of place on a cotton plantation circa 1860, a street car in the 30's or a civil rights march in the 60's.
Track 4 - Jack Of All Trades
In stark contrast to the previous tracks " Jack Of All Trades" is a slow burner that speaks to the fed up and downhearted culminating in a furious statement when the protagonist finally cracks. For the first two thirds of the song you get the feeling the protagonist is on his last legs and dragging a heavy load,
plodding along but doing the best he can with a sense of hope " Theres a new world coming and I can see the light" ....until the final verse where the lyrical content takes a change in tact with the words " If I
had me a gun I'd find the bastards and shoot em on sight". This track is great for the slow build up to the final guitar solo where the guitar sound is reminiscent of the achingly, frustrated sounds Bruce pulls out of his guitar on "Candy's Room," (Darkness on The Edge of Town). The character is older and wiser but still seething with dissatisfaction, whether its the fury incited in a young man by a girl who won't give up other men (Candy’s Room) or a daily grind taking the grown man nowhere you can hear the fury and the torment in the guitar.
Track 5 - Death To My Hometown
This song is the most straight forwardly evocative of the Seeger Sessions. It's a full-blown Irish folk jam and you can almost taste the whiskey and the feeling of being enveloped in tobacco haze at a " lock in" once the pub has closed. This is a song about war. Not a war waged with bombs and bloody violence, but a war engaged by suits with pens and signatures. Regardless the result is the same “They destroyed our families’ factories and they took our homes / They left our bodies on the planks, the vultures picked our bones.” No surprises that it too is an angry and stubborn anthemic narrative. Its a song to inspire anger
and arouse defiance.
Track 6 - This Depression
There is no anthemic rabble rousing goodtimes in store for you with " This Depression" musically or lyrically. Yet it is a contemplative and achingly honest message about the affects of finally coming to point so low there is nothing left for the narrator, but to beg strength, love and faith from his significant other "this is my confession / i need your heart / in this depression / i need your heart " There is nothing else he can rely on and although he's been lost, low and been without love before, he has never felt so
weak, faith shaken, hopeless and forsaken. As always Bruce has a genius way of creating moving pictures in your head without necessarily giving too much detail away lyrically, using the music to great effect in
support of the scenes that are playing out in your mind.
Track 7 - Wrecking Ball
I don't think I ever missed Clarence Clemons so much. "Wrecking Ball" is missing him. The last few tracks from the Wrecking Ball album have managed pretty well without the Big Man, probably more to do with the folksy stylings we have been hearing than anything else. Yet, "Wrecking Ball" is screaming for Clarence, I could hear him in my head, but not out of the speakers. For the first time since Clarence died, I cried. "Wrecking Ball" ducks and weaves its way through middle eights built from walls of sound that no wrecking ball could knock down. Great song, I miss Clarence.
Track 8 - You’ve Got It
This one is going to play around your head all day long. "You've Got It" is like a light refreshment after a hard slog and signals the first track from Wrecking Ball that doesn't contain the angst of the previous tracks. This song smoulders along with a bluesy lyric and guitar, and if I may be so bold it's extremely
sexy. Bruce has that magic ability to hook his vocals under your skin and and gets them to run riot through your being until you are completely mesmerized. I guess that’s what "IT" is and Bruce has always had it in spades. Listen to it with a pitcher of iced tea, sitting in front of your open fridge door on a hot summer day. It's a recipe for bliss.
Track 9 - Rocky Ground
"Rocky Ground" is a testament to faith and draws a comparison between the flood of Noahs Ark fame and the spiritual flooding of hopelessness. "Forty days and nights of rain have washed this land /Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand/ Find your flock, get them to higher ground /Flood waters
rising and we're Canaan bound."
Gospel singer Michelle Moore gives the song spirituality and soul with the refrain " We've been walking/ travelling over rocky ground" repeated throughout and surprisingly for a Springsteen song performs a rap that actually works well within the context of the production (drum loops, yes drum loops along with an
archival sound recording) and song writing. If you are a Springsteen fan don't let the aforementioned rap and drum loops scare you off this one. "Rocky Ground" has been put together extremely well and is beautifully crafted. Obviously if you are fan of Springsteen the religious connotations will be no surprise. Here is the rap ; "You use your muscle and your mind and you pray your best /That your best is good
enough, the Lord will do the rest /You raise your children and you teach 'them to walk straight and sure /You pray that hard times, hard times, come no more/ You try to sleep, you toss and turn, the bottom's dropping out /Where you once had faith now there's only doubt /You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers /The morning breaks, you awake but no one's there."
Track 10 - Land of Hope and Dreams
The Big Man, Clarence Clemons is back on the 10th track from 'Wrecking Ball" and all seems right with the world. Land of Hope and Dreams has got it all, mandolin, banjo, keys, guitars and SAX! First listen and its my favourite track so far. The song builds slowly, from a lonesome vocal with an underlying warmth of a movement, gradually building with the introduction of plucking banjo and gospel choir.... then BOOM! Guitars and riffage launch "this train" into the stratosphere with the guidance of that familiar organ sound showcased so well and made legendary on "Rosalita" from the "The Wild The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle" album. Bring on the mandolin and Bruce takes over on vocals. Goose bump inducing stuff. The song builds and builds up to 3.47 where the Big Man takes the reigns and belts out a sax solo that nobody on earth can do with the same passion, regard and feeling as Clarence Clemons. This is the point where tears of joy seep out the corner of my eye. The song then begins its descent from the stratosphere like a graceful paper airplane on currents of warm air and is delivered to earth with a fading gospel voice, piano, horns and unobnoxious drum.
Track 11 - We are Alive
The album closer “We are Alive” leaves the listener with a sense hope and that all is not lost. The lyrics are almost whispered as Bruce channels the ghosts of the past that fought battles and
whose struggles have not been lost because they inspire and give hope. “We are alive / Oh, and though we lie alone here in the dark /Our souls will rise to carry the fire and light the spark /To
fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart”. The song starts with an eerie whistler and sets the scene for the voices calling from the grave. The song accelerates through Bruce’s whispered first verse and chorus with a single acoustic guitar. The introduction of banjo, drums and a guitar that sounds like it comes straight from Galveston at 1.28 breathes life into the song “ We are Alive”. A great way to look forward to the future with optimism. If we ain't got anyhting else, at least we're breathing and have the power to do something about the problem.