High Hopes (album)

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High Hopes
High Hopes album Bruce Springsteen.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 14, 2014 (2014-01-14)
RecordedMarch - June 2013
StudioThrill Hill; Thrill Hill West; Stone Hill Studio; Southern Tracks Recording Studio; Studios 301[1]
ProducerRon Aniello, Brendan O'Brien, Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band chronology
Collection: 1973–2012
High Hopes
American Beauty
Singles from High Hopes
  1. "High Hopes"
    Released: November 25, 2013

High Hopes is the eighteenth studio album by American recording artist Bruce Springsteen, released January 14, 2014, on Columbia Records. The album was Springsteen's 11th #1 album in the United States, placing him third all-time for most No. 1 albums only behind The Beatles and Jay-Z.[2] It was his tenth No. 1 in the UK, putting him joint fifth all-time and level with The Rolling Stones and U2.[3] Rolling Stone named it the second-best album of 2014 on their year-end list.

The album features Springsteen's regular backing band, the E Street Band, plus guitarist Tom Morello. Contributions from deceased E Street Band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici are also included. Co-produced by Ron Aniello, Brendan O'Brien and Springsteen, the album was preceded by the single "High Hopes," and is a collection of cover songs, out-takes and re-imagined versions of tracks from past albums, EPs and tours. A music video for "Just Like Fire Would" was released January 22, 2014. A music video for "The Wall" was aired during the 2014 HBO special, Bruce Springsteen's High Hopes. On July 9, 2014, Springsteen released a short film for "Hunter of Invisible Game" which marked his directorial debut.

Springsteen said that the new music was "some of our best unreleased material from the past decade" and among the best of his writing and deserved a proper studio recording. In April 2014, Springsteen released American Beauty, a four-track EP of songs that did not make the final cut of High Hopes.


Work on the album started on December 9, 2012. Springsteen called Aniello to discuss some demos of older songs that had never been finished.[4] Finding time to record the album proved to be difficult due the band's being halfway through the Wrecking Ball Tour.[4] Aniello began production on the album in Los Angeles while the band toured.[4] Aniello said, "He was gone most of the time, so we weren't able to sit in a room and sort it all out. It all happened in a very unusual manner. But once we got started on it and he started to uncover what it was exactly. . . It just took the most part of a year for him to figure it out. I'm not sure what he had in mind from the beginning, but this is what we ended up with."[4]

In March 2013, the day before Springsteen flew to Australia to resume touring, he went to Los Angeles.[4] Aniello and Springsteen did mixes, and Springsteen posed for the album pictures. Aniello said Springsteen was "working his ass off, just working his ass off. I've never seen someone his age work like that. He put in a 15-hour day in the studio."[4] During their time in Australia, Springsteen and the E Street Band (minus Steven Van Zandt, who was off filming his television series, Lilyhammer) were joined by Tom Morello (Van Zandt's replacement).[4] The band spent its off time recording new music, although at the time there were no specific plans for a new album.[4] Aniello said recording in Australia was a spontaneous decision that was possible because recording engineer Nick DiDia was there to work with the band.[4] More recording took place at various studios around the US, including Springsteen's personal home studio in New Jersey, Atlanta, New York City and Nashville.[5]

Aniello stated that 20 songs were recorded for the album.[4] Aniello said, "The thing with Bruce is that he accepts his inspiration without question, he doesn't analyze it. But when it comes time to analyze, that's when he turns the screws on everything. Then he'll go back and forth with sequences for months and months until he gets it exactly where he wants it. I don't see that in any other artist that I work with. It's usually like, 'What's a good sequence?' And then, 'Oh, the hit sounds good first. Then the bad songs should go at the end.' That's not how Bruce does it. He has a story to tell. We recorded a lot and at first it was a much longer record. Bruce did the same thing with Wrecking Ball. I have the piece of paper with all 15 or whatever songs on it, and he draws a line through the last four and goes, 'This is it. Let's take these four off.' It was like a knife in my heart. I was like, 'Those are my favorites!' At the end of the day, though, he's always right. It's got to work as a piece. This was a much bigger experiment because it was so different. There was a little more back and forth with it."[4]


High Hopes is a first for Springsteen: a studio album composed entirely of covers, outtakes and reimagined versions of songs from past albums and tours. "The best way to describe this record," Springsteen said, "is that's it's a bit of an anomaly but not much. I don't really work linearly like a lot of people do."[6]

The album's title track and first single, "High Hopes", was originally recorded in 1995 and released on the Blood Brothers (EP).[6] According to Springsteen, Morello suggested they perform the song during the Wrecking Ball Tour, which ultimately led to it being re-recorded. "American Skin (41 Shots)" was originally written in 2000 in response to the death of Amadou Diallo.[6] A live version was released on Live in New York City while the studio version was released on a rare 2001 promo CD.[6] During the Wrecking Ball Tour, Springsteen started to perform the song again as a tribute to Trayvon Martin. "The Ghost of Tom Joad" was the first single from the 1995 album of the same name and has been performed many times, often featuring Morello on guitar and trading vocals with Springsteen.[6] The track had been covered by Morello's former band, Rage Against the Machine, in a 1997 video, and later appeared on their album Renegades.

The album also features songs originally written for other albums, such as "Harry's Place," a song written in 2001 and intended originally for The Rising;[7] "Heaven's Wall," "Down in the Hole" and "Hunter of Invisible Game," which all date from 2002–2008;[1] and "The Wall", which Springsteen wrote around 1998 based on an idea from Joe Grushecky. "The Wall" tells the story of Springsteen's visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and memories of Walter Cichon, a New Jersey musician who did not return home from the Vietnam War. "Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the Motifs. The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be," Springsteen explained.[8]

Morello also inspired the performances of two covers that ended up being recorded. "Just Like Fire Would" is a cover of Australian punk rock band The Saints' 1986 single, while "Dream Baby Dream" is a cover of the protopunk band Suicide's 1979 single.[6] A version of Springsteen's cover of "Dream Baby Dream" was released in September 2013 as a music video tribute to the fans who attended the Wrecking Ball Tour.[9] In 2005, Springsteen closed out shows on his solo Devils & Dust Tour performing the song on a pump organ.[6]

According to Aniello, songs such as "Cold Spot," "Hey, Blue Eyes," "American Beauty" and "Mary, Mary" were among the 20 songs recorded that did not make the final cut.[6] Those songs, with the exception of "Cold Spot," were released on the American Beauty EP in April 2014.[10]

Release and promotion[edit]

On December 28, 2013, Amazon.com made the album available for purchase as individual MP3 files through their mobile application. Amazon quickly removed the files, but it was too late and the album leaked by mid-day.[11][12]

On January 12, 2014, the television series The Good Wife featured snippets of three songs ("High Hopes," "Hunter of Invisible Game" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad") during the episode. Usage of Springsteen's songs was part of a deal between his label and the CBS television network to gain wider exposure for the album in an unconventional way and lure his baby boomer fans to the show and the network's website. Springsteen said, "This is music I always felt needed to be released. I felt they all deserved a home and a hearing" in a statement discussing the CBS deal.[13]

On January 14, 2014, the entire episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was dedicated to Springsteen. Springsteen and the E Street Band, with Tom Morello but without Steven Van Zandt (who was filming Lilyhammer), performed "High Hopes," "Heaven's Wall" and "Just Like Fire Would." The latter song was streamed online and was not shown on television. Springsteen and Fallon, both dressed as Springsteen from the Born in the U.S.A. era, performed a parody song to the theme of "Born to Run" titled "Gov. Christie Traffic Jam", poking fun at the Fort Lee lane closure scandal. Springsteen was also interviewed.[14]

On April 4, 2014, HBO aired Bruce Springsteen's High Hopes, a 30-minute documentary on the making of High Hopes.[15] In May 2014, Sony Music Netherlands released a 45-minute documentary to YouTube titled High Hopes In South Africa which documented Springsteen and the E Street Band's first-ever concerts in South Africa.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[19]
The A.V. ClubC+[20]
Chicago Tribune2/4 stars[21]
Entertainment WeeklyB[22]
The Guardian3/5 stars[23]
The Independent4/5 stars[24]
Rolling Stone4.5/5 stars[27]
Slant3/5 stars[28]

High Hopes garnered generally positive reception from music critics. At Metacritic, the album holds a weighted average Metascore of 67 out of 100, based upon 37 reviews, indicating generally favorable reception.[18] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic rated it three-and-a-half stars, stating that, "Strictly speaking, these 12 songs don't cohere into a mood or narrative but after two decades of deliberate, purposeful albums, it's rather thrilling to hear Springsteen revel in a mess of contradictions."[19] At Rolling Stone, David Fricke rated the album four-and-a-half stars, writing that, "The cumulative effect of this mass of old, borrowed, blue and renewed – covers, recent outtakes and redefining takes on two classics – is retrospect with a cutting edge, running like one of the singer's epic look-ma-no-set-list gigs: full of surprises, all with a reason for being there."[27] Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly graded the album a B, stating that the release "crackles with immediacy, despite the cobbled-together nature of the material."[22] At The Independent, Andy Gill rated the album four stars, noting that "Though lacking the thematic unity one expects from Springsteen albums, High Hopes has much to recommend it, particularly the way that Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello has re-invigorated old material".[24]

Leonie Cooper of NME rated the album an eight out of ten, writing that Springsteen is "Still The Boss."[25] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune gave the album 2 stars out of 4 saying "if there's a thread tying these disparate tunes together, it's the singer's desire to update his sound." The writer praised "Just Like Fire Would," "Hunter of Invisible Game," and "The Wall," but described the album as "otherwise ho-hum."[21] At The A.V. Club, David Anthony graded it a C+, stating that "Springsteen splashes his brightest colors against a canvas, crosses his fingers, and hopes they mesh."[20] Jessica Hopper of Spin rated the album five out of ten, commenting that "This is the small tragedy of the uneven High Hopes: that it doesn't play like a Springsteen album."[29] At Pitchfork, Stephen M. Deusner rated the album a four out of ten, noting that "the thick arrangements distract from the good songwriting and conceal the bad, often to the extent that it’s impossible to discern which is which."[26]

Jesse Cataldo of Slant rated the album three stars, writing that "Springsteen aligns himself with a long tradition of folksingers, and as a devotee of protest music, he clearly understands the genre's responsibility in identifying such trends; the specific instances that create the songs may change, but the deeper inequalities that inspire them don't."[28] At The Guardian, Ian Gittins rated the album three stars, noting that, "High Hopes may be a stopgap, but it is one assembled with tender, loving care."[23] USA Today's Edna Gundersen's review, which ran under the headline, "Grab-bag material could hurt Springsteen's 'High Hopes'," cited "mixed reviews and a lukewarm sales forecast." She quoted Billboard magazine associate director of charts/retail Keith Caulfield who said, "Wrecking Ball did 196,000 its first week. It's safe to say this won't do that. But anything Bruce puts out sells respectably." Gundersen also reported Caulfield saying, Of Springsteen's decision to allow his music to be used for The Good Wife television show, "He's doing what everyone's doing, reaching consumers that are going to buy their music."[30]

In December 2014, Rolling Stone named High Hopes the second best album (behind only U2's Songs of Innocence) on their Top 50 Albums of 2014 list.[31]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart on its first week of release, making this his 11th No. 1 on the chart and placing him third on the acts with the most No.1 on the chart behind the Beatles (with 19 No. 1s) and Jay-Z (with 13).[32] The album sold around 99,000 copies in the United States in its first week. As of October 2015, the album has sold 213,000 copies in the US.[33] In the United Kingdom, the album also debuted at No.1, his 10th No. 1s on the UK chart.[34]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen, except where noted.

1."High Hopes" (Tim Scott McConnell)4:57
2."Harry's Place"4:04
3."American Skin (41 Shots)"7:23
4."Just Like Fire Would" (Chris Bailey)3:56
5."Down in the Hole"4:59
6."Heaven's Wall"3:50
7."Frankie Fell in Love"2:48
8."This Is Your Sword"2:52
9."Hunter of Invisible Game"4:42
10."The Ghost of Tom Joad"7:33
11."The Wall"4:20
12."Dream Baby Dream" (Martin Rev, Alan Vega)5:00



  • Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals (all tracks), guitar (all tracks), percussion (tracks 1, 3, 7), bass guitar (track 6), percussion loop (track 6), Hammond organ (tracks 6, 7), synthesizer (tracks 6, 8, 12), piano (tracks 8, 12), banjo (tracks 5, 8), mandolin (tracks 7, 8, 12), vibraphone (track 1), drums (track 11), harmonium (track 12)
  • Roy Bittan – piano (tracks 1—4, 7, 8, 10—12), Hammond organ (track 8)
  • Clarence Clemons – saxophone (tracks 2, 5)
  • Danny Federici – Hammond organ (tracks 5, 11)
  • Nils Lofgren – guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4, 11), background vocals (track 3)
  • Patti Scialfa – background vocals (tracks 1, 3—6, 8, 11)
  • Garry Tallent – bass guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4—6, 9, 11)
  • Steven Van Zandt – guitar (track 3), background vocals (tracks 3, 4, 7, 8)
  • Max Weinberg – drums (except tracks 8 and 11)
  • Ron Aniello – drum loops (track 1), percussion loops (6, 12), bass guitar (7, 8, 10, 12), synthesizer (6, 8, 10, 11, 12), guitar (7, 8, 12), 12–string guitar (track 4), farfisa, Hammond organ (track 6), accordion (track 11), vibraphone (track 3)
  • Tom Morello – guitar (tracks 1—4, 6, 9, 10, 12), lead vocals (track 10)
  • Jake Clemons – saxophone (tracks 3, 4)
  • Charles Giordano – Hammond organ (tracks 3, 4), accordion (track 10)
  • Ed Manion – saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 12)
  • Soozie Tyrell – violin (tracks 5, 10), additional violin (track 9), background vocals (tracks 1, 3, 6, 8)
  • Sam Bardfeld – violin (tracks 6, 7, 8)
  • Everett Bradley – background vocals (tracks 1, 4), percussion (tracks 1, 4, 6)
  • Barry Danielian – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 12)
  • Josh Freese – drums (track 8)
  • Clark Gayton – trombone, tuba (tracks 1, 3, 4, 12)
  • Stan Harrison – saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 12)
  • Curtis King – background vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6)
  • Cindy Mizelle – background vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6)
  • Michelle Moore – background vocals (tracks 1, 4)
  • Curt Ramm – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 12), cornet (track 11)
  • Evan Springsteen – background vocals (track 5)
  • Jessica Springsteen – background vocals (track 5)
  • Samuel Springsteen – background vocals (track 5)
  • Cillian Vallely - uilleann pipes, low whistle, tin whistle (track 8)



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