Monday, December 30, 2013

High Hopes

Someone on Amazon 'accidentally' made Bruce Springsteen's new album, due for release in two weeks, available for purchase (mp3 download) over the weekend. Amazon has since retracted it, but the full album is already circulating over the Internet. Leaks are fairly common in today's world, but not like this. It had to be done intentionally, obviously to drum up more publicity for the album, since there was very little to begin with. Now many music and entertainment publications are reporting this mini-incident. So, thanks to Jon Landau management for giving us an early New Year's gift. I've only listened once all the way through and won't listen again till I get my hands on the vinyl. But I like what I've heard so far, for its 'un-usualness' in that there's no overlying theme that binds all the songs together (a first for Bruce in a long time), and overall musically it's quite different from what we're used to hearing from him; in a way continuing from where Wrecking Ball left off. It's too early to say whether it's as strong as Wrecking Ball or The Rising, but High Hopes is certainly much, much better than Working On A Dream, albeit nowhere near as great as Magic. And I love Tom Morello's contribution here.


P.S. Tommy talks touring and recording with Bruce in a new Rolling Stone interview [link].

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Top 20 Albums of 2013

1. Southeastern - Jason Isbell

2. The Diving Board - Elton John

3. Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam

4. Reflektor - Arcade Fire

5. Hesitation Marks - Nine Inch Nails

6. The Civil Wars - The Civil Wars

7. Trouble Will Find Me - The National

8. The Next Day - David Bowie

9. Wrote A Song For Everyone - John Fogerty

10. Push The Sky Away - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

11. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk

12. Ready To Die - Iggy & The Stooges

13. Mother - Natalie Maines

14. Honky Tonk - Son Volt

15. Made Up Mind - Tedeschi Trucks Band

16. Get Up! - Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite

17. Wise Up Ghost - Elvis Costello & The Roots

18. Regions Of Light And Sound Of God - Jim James

19. Repave - Volcano Choir

20. American Ride - Willie Nile

Thursday, December 19, 2013

High Hopes

Rolling Stone just published an exclusive interview with Bruce Springsteen about his upcoming album comprising of covers, outtakes and new, re-imagined versions of old songs [link]. (Up till now, the promotion for High Hopes, apart from the occasional Facebook and Twitter posting has been almost non-existent.) He provides us with some interesting insight into how the idea for the project came about and how it was recorded in the midst of the Wrecking Ball Tour. Also interviewed is Tom Morello, whose mention of the reworked The Ghost Of Tom Joad may suggest a very different take from the live one we're so used to hearing. And now we know that Down In The Hole is actually a Rising outtake. But the biggest revelation that have already made fans dizzy with excitement is what Jon Landau said; Bruce's first two albums are currently being remastered for a forthcoming release, which means soon, possibly within the next year. Bout time; Greetings and Innocent are the two records most in need of a remaster. And of course the long rumored River box set will actually see the light of day too, as confirmed by Landau himself. As for Born In The USA, it's a little surprising they have not thought of re-releasing it for next year, not that anyone's complaining. We'd all gladly take The River first.

In other exciting news, The E Street Band is finally going to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Class of 2014 [link], receiving a special award for Musical Excellence, formerly the sidemen category. Nils Lofgren, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg and Steve Van Zandt probably won't think that highly of it, but it's good to see these guys formally recognized, their names written in stone. It's unfortunate Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici won't be at the ceremony. The entire band should've been inducted long, long ago, in fact same time as Bruce in 1999. Original members, Vini Lopez and David Sancious will probably get in too. Not sure about Patti or Soozie though. I would love to see Tom Morello give the induction speech.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

EV 2014 Australian Tour

Pearl Jam are not allowed to play any sideshows outside of Big Day Out due to contractual obligations, but Eddie is rewarding the fans by doing another round of solo shows after the festival tour (that basically rules out any hope for a PJ Asian tour). It's also a good excuse for him to do some surfing down under in the summer. I can bet he'll be in Melbourne the Saturday (15th Feb) Bruce Springsteen is playing and Bruce will invite him onstage. Pre-sale drawing for 10c members end tomorrow [link].

UPDATE: 3 new shows added for Sydney (12th), Melbourne (19th) and Brisbane (25th), due to insanely overwhelming demand.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

High Hopes for High Hopes

A new Springsteen album containing covers and outtakes from the past decade was the furthest thing from anyone's mind, but a release like this has been a long time coming, especially since Tracks, and it's barely even scratching the surface of the amount of stuff remaining in the vaults. High Hopes contains three eclectic covers, two of which we've already heard (the title track and Dream Baby Dream), and a new studio recording of Just Like Fire Would, from the Aussie punk band, The Saints. Presumably recorded in Sydney during the downtime in March, it has only been performed once at the first Brisbane show. I expect Bruce and the band will perform it more frequently during their Oz tour next Feb. The three covers share something in common, which is their obscurity. Then there's the two songs that we've all heard in concert and on live recordings many times already, but Bruce has decided to re-record them, to everyone's surprise. American Skin I'm not so crazy about, but I'm ecstatic the electric The Ghost Of Tom Joad has finally gotten a proper studio version. I won't be surprised if they continue playing it live next year, just like they did every Oz show this year. The Wall is one only the diehards are familiar with. It's a great tune and it's been performed solo very few times, and it's finally getting a deserved E Street Band treatment. The other six songs no one's ever heard before. It's a known fact Harry's Place is an outtake from The Rising that didn't fit thematically on the album. It's not related to Mary's Place. The fact that Tom Morello plays guitar on this song suggests that it might have been recorded again. There is no indication yet which of the recent albums songs like Down In The Hole, Heaven's Wall, Frankie Fell In Love, This Is Your Sword and Hunter Of Invisible Game were originally left off from, but one thing's for sure -- they will feature the E Street Band, including Danny and Clarence, and some of them are produced by Brendan O'Brien. I'm really looking forward to hearing lots of Morello on this. Never in a hundred years you'd think he'd become a muse for Bruce.

P.S. There's an Amazon-exclusive available for pre-order that includes a bonus DVD of the entire Born In The USA performance from the band's London show this year [link]. I just wanna hear Downbound Train. People thinking that this is some sort of 'strange' and low-key way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the blockbuster album in 2014 shouldn't worry. It's definitely a sign of bigger things to come. It's expected the record label will push hard for a deluxe box set to be released sometime next year. This kind of thing is simply too big to be ignored. So far there are no rumors of any US or European dates right after South Africa and Australasia, so the Feb/Mar jaunt may indeed be a one-off affair. I predict we'll see a brand new studio album from Bruce (and hopefully the E Street Band) in the later half of 2014. And then he'll start touring the States again and eventually make it to Europe in the summer of 2015.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Leonard Cohen @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre

November 30th. This was the most exquisite and flawless concert I've ever seen in my life. Dead center, only ten rows and less than 50m away from the stage, I hung on to Leonard Cohen's every word, his every move. He was absolutely mesmerizing to watch, and he put on a strong vocal performance. He was surrounded by what seemed like the best musicians on the face of the earth, all of whom were impeccably dressed. The sound mix was perfect you could pick out every instrument crystal clear. Javier Mas and his Spanish guitar...... oh God, what a gorgeous sound. Famous Blue Raincoat and Chelsea Hotel killed me, so did the beautiful Come Healing, from his recent masterpiece, Old Ideas. The way he sang I'm Your Man, ooh man, what chills! The band members were given many opportunities to shine on individual solos, after which Leonard would tip his hat off and bow to them. I've never seen a more humble gesture made by any performing artist, and the man was genuinely grateful to be in their presence. The violin solo during Suzanne reduced me to tears, so did Sharon Robinson singing Alexandria Leaving. The show lasted at least three hours, excluding the short intermission in between sets. What a religious experience it was.

Dance Me To The End Of Love
The Future
Bird On A Wire
Everybody Knows
Who By Fire
The Darkness
Come Healing
Lover Lover Lover

Tower Of Song
Chelsea Hotel
Le Partisan
Alessandra Leaving (Sharon Robinson)
I'm Your Man
Thousand Kisses Deep (recitation)
Take This Waltz

So Long Marianne
Going Home
First We Take Manhattan

Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will (The Webb sisters)
Closing Time

I Tried To Leave You
Save The Last Dance For Me