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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Fair
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Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes
(Columbia)
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When Springsteen releases a new album, it's usually a major event. But because his newest effort, High Hopes, is a grab bag of new recordings, rerecordings and old recordings gussied up, it's easy to dismiss. Don't. There is some standout material that deserves a listen, even if High Hopes doesn't qualify as a "proper" Springsteen record.

"Just Like Fire Would" and "Frankie Fell In Love" are great E Street rockers. The new versions of the title track, "American Skin" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" are enjoyable, and ballads like "Hunter of Invisible Game" and "The Wall" have as much soul as anything the Boss has ever done. Unfortunately, no matter how hard Springsteen tried to give these tracks a sense of unity, they can't escape their original identity: songs that didn't make it onto an album. And as hard as Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello tries to fit in, he sticks out in a very loud way.

At the end of the day, this is still a Springsteen project, and he's still one of the masters. And though High Hopes isn't a masterpiece, you'll be happy when a cut shows up on a randomized playlist you've created.

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