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March 5, 2012 / jhsaeger

Springsteen Sways Politically-Charged Wrecking Ball

    In Bruce Springsteen’s long-awaited 17thalbum Wrecking Ball, his first in three years, the E-Street bandleader recorded a political-charged album in a manner that is best described as being slightly experimental. By combining these two factors, Springsteen was dually the same old Boss as well as Bruce as you’ve never seen him before. The addition of Celtic, Gospel, and hip-hop influences into songs allowed for a disjointed-sounding record that simultaneously possessed a tight set of lyrics. 
    The first track to appear on Wrecking Ball, “We Take Care of Our Own,” quickly set the tone for the album. Springteen used a short set of verse and an uptempo musical arrangement to bring life to a song that could easily open itself up to “Born in the U.S.A.”-style misinterpretation. As far as the politically inspired lyrics, “Jack of All Trades” may have the most hard-hitting story. The tale of a working-class character who suffers while “the banker man grows fat/working man grows thin” is certainly gut-wrenching and helps drive home the theme of the record.
    The most visually-inspiring set of lyrics on the record oddly came from a track that was written in 2009, “Wrecking Ball.” Originally written to help draw the final concert series of Giants Stadium to a close, “Wrecking Ball” was written from the perspective of the stadium itself as it defiantly challenged the piece of equipment to “take your best shot.” Other key tracks on Wrecking Ball include the lively “Shackled and Drawn” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
   Unlike Springsteen’s previous two records, Working On A Dream and Magic, the E-Street Band contributed sporadically to Wrecking Ball. Instead, a host of studio musicians were enlisted to support the recording of Wrecking Ball.The drumming duties for the record were shared by Max Weinberg, Springsteen, producer Ron Aniello, and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, The Wallflowers). Tom Morrello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), who like Springsteen has been known to pen politically-charged lyrics under the moniker The Nightwatchman, played guitar on “Jack of All Trades” and “This Depression.” One of the most important final touches on the record included deceased saxophone player and E-Street icon Clarence Clemons, who appeared on “Wrecking Ball” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.”   Excerpts from Springsteen’s eulogy at the funeral services for Clemons were included following The Boss’ acknowledgements at the end of the album credits.
    While Wrecking Ball may tug at the heart with a series of hard-hitting lyrics, it proved to be tough to digest as a continuous album. The myriad of styles, bouncing between Celtic, Gospel, and singer-songwriter style sound failed to mesh particularly well. Wrecking Ball is not the first time Gospel music has influenced Springsteen, but it is most overt on this record. The most apt description is that the record gives off a “solo” vibe versus a full-band record and seemed to be Springsteen tinkering with different ways of thinking. 
  Wrecking Ball is available as a digital download, vinyl, and a deluxe edition CD with two bonus tracks. Springsteen and the E-Street Band will begin the first North American leg of the Wrecking Ball Tour on March 18 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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