I am an ardent Springsteen fan, and am thankful that after many decades of being The Boss, he hasn’t resigned to trying to relive the glory days of the 80s or even refit his sound into an older version of himself. He’s still a rock & roll musician, and irregardless of his political views or some of the themes of his songwriting, he is still crafting gorgeous lyrics with music that is easy to rock-out to.
Bruce began working on this album before the Occupy movement began, and some of the songs seem to have that “we are the 99%” proclamation. He also began this album before a tragedy that it easy to feel affected his prose and craftsmanship-the death of his friend, band member and saxophone player Clarence Clemons. This iTunes album has a special tribute to “The Biggest Man on Earth” that is definitely worth checking out.
Though the Occupy movement pails in comparison to the effects of 9/11, there is a similar dynamic that Wrecking Ball shares with one of Springsteen’s previous albums, The Rising. Both were album projects that began before events unraveled that would change the tone of the songs, and bring forth a different kind of message. Clemons unexpected death certainly fits into this comparison as well. The Rising featured beautifully written songs like My City of Ruin, actually composed prior to the WTC collapse, and yet being the anthem of a city and a country rebuilding itself after the strike.
Like I said, Springsteen still is making stellar rock & roll. He’s also not trying to be the Born To Run star of yore. The only comparison is that he still writes from a blue-collar perspective in tracks like Wrecking Ball, which makes it obvious how it became the rally cry of the anti-Wall Street movement. I make this reference to the 80s rock star because too foten we see rock stars still trying to hang on to what put them on the map although it’s been nearly 30 years. Old people still trying to be young doesn’t appeal to me (notably Steven Tyler, Billy Idol, and even Brett Michaels are in this category).
This album, like a great chef, provides hints of seasonings in other styles of music, like gospel and hip-hop. The first song I heard end-to-end was Rocky Ground, premiering in a stream on NPR’s All Songs Considered blog last week in the lead-up to today. In it both folk and rock welcome gospel and hip-hop in a song that I listened to over and over all day. I’ll probably do that today as well, and I encourage you to check it out too. Death To My Hometown and American Land are other powerful tracks, blending rock with Celtic spices.
If you’re one to not go full-on with grabbing a whole album and prefer a single bite here and there, this is definitely one to add to your library. I added the album site-unseen. Jack Of All Trades is the soundtrack to the tribute to Clemons, an inspiring and beautifully written message about the Big Man to both the fallen friend and to those who loved him. Beginning to end, like The Rising or Devils & Dust, Wrecking Ball delivers powerful songs that will knock you down and pick you back up again.