Springsteen seems to be a roll at the moment with no sign of slowing down. His previous album Western Stars which was released last year has become a firm favourite of mine with its sweeping dusty Western prairie soundscapes and laidback country 60s and early 70s nostalgic pop feel (reviewed here).
However, Western Stars had one thing missing, the E Street Band. Sure, it could be argued that it was not the sort of album that warranted their inclusion but some may feel that having ‘The Boss’ without his band is like have a cake with no icing. Therefore fans will be delighted to know that the brand new album Letter To You, Springsteen’s 20th studio album with the E Street Band is released tomorrow on Columbia Records.
The album kicks off with ‘One Minute You’re Here’ which starts with just Bruce’s “Big black train comin’ down the track” vocal lyric and what I presume to be his guitar. The piece gently builds with strings and light piano as “One minute you’re here… Next minute you’re gone”. Great song to start with that has a bit of The Ghost of Tom Joad album about it.
Next up, we have the rock fuelled ‘Letter To You’ and ‘Burnin’ Train’, both sounding like Springsteen full on classics. You may have already heard and seen, the video for ‘Letter To You’ as it was released as an album teaser at the start of the albums publicity campaign. The joy of both these songs has to be the full E Street Band experience which fans have been crying out for since their last performance in 2016 as part of The River tour. Rejoice then in the mighty combined sound of Bruce Springsteen (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Stevie Van Zandt (guitar, vocals), Roy Bittan (piano, vocals), Garry Tallent (bass, vocals), Max Weinberg (drums, vocals), Charlie Giordano (organ, vocals), Nils Lofgren (guitar, vocals), Patti Scialfa (vocals) and Jake Clemons (saxophone).
Here is a word from the man himself. “I love the emotional nature of ‘Letter To You,’” says Springsteen. “And I love the sound of the E Street Band playing completely live in the studio, in a way we’ve never done before, and with no overdubs. We made the album in only five days, and it turned out to be one of the greatest recording experiences I’ve ever had.”
The treats keep coming in thick and fast as out of the albums twelve tracks, three are new versions of previously unreleased songs from 1970. The first being ‘Janey Needs a Shooter’ with its treacle dripping Hammond organ, jangling and crunchy guitars, thumping drums, tinkering keys and that unique Springsteen vocal belting out over the top of it all, interlaced with occasional mouth organ. A style that many have tried to copy but lets face it, nobody quite does it like ‘The Boss’.
The second is ‘If I Was the Priest’. The opening lines sum it up better than I could ever put into words. “There’s a light on yonder mountain, And it’s callin’ me to shine, There’s a girl over by the water fountain, And she’s askin’ to be mine, And Jesus is standin’ in the doorway, In a buckskin jacket, boots and spurs so fine, He says, “We need you son tonight up in Dodge City’,‘Cause there’s just too many outlaws tryin’ to work the same line”. I don’t really need to say anymore other than in my mind this song qualifies as a true Springsteen classic!
The last 70s unreleased gem is ‘Song for Orphans.’ The best way to describe this piece of buried treasure is as follows… If the E Street band, Dylan and the Band had ever got together and released a killer song then this one would be it. Just listen to these opening lyrics. “The multitude assembled and tried to make the noise, The black blind poet generals and restless loud white boys, Times grew thin and the axis grew somehow incomplete, “Where instead of child lions, We had aging junkie sheep, How many wasted have I seen signed “Hollywood or bust”, They’re left to ride them ever-ghostly Arizona gusts, Cheerleader tramps and kids with big amps, Sounding in the void, High society vamps, ex-heavyweight champs, Mistaking soot for soil”.
True, I may have gone over the top with this review but basically, I’m so excited by the release of this album that I can hardly contain myself.
The full album track listing is as follows:
LETTER TO YOU
1. One Minute You’re Here
2. Letter To You
3. Burnin’ Train
4. Janey Needs A Shooter
5. Last Man Standing
6. The Power Of Prayer
7. House Of A Thousand Guitars
9. If I Was The Priest
11. Song For Orphans
12. I’ll See You In My Dreams
The album was produced by Ron Aniello with Bruce Springsteen, mixed by Bob Clearmountain and mastered by Bob Ludwig and recorded at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey.
Artist’s website: https://brucespringsteen.net/
‘Letter To You’ – official video: