tue 29/11/2022

Album: Bruce Springsteen - Only the Strong Survive | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Bruce Springsteen - Only the Strong Survive

Album: Bruce Springsteen - Only the Strong Survive

The Boss serves up 15 soul classics

Soul food from the Boss

Bruce is back! His 21st studio album (can it really be 50 years next year since Greetings from Asbury Park?) and his second covers album.

It’s a musical world away from the first, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006), but like that collection it’s a deep dive into a genre totally different to his own – American soul classics from the 1960s and 1970s.

Begun in 2020, shortly after the release of Letter to You, the world in lockdown, it’s an opportunity for the Boss to put his “badass voice” at the service of 15 of the “most beautiful songs in the American pop sound book” – songs which Springsteen believes “are still underrated”. Only the Strong Survive is a joyous outing featuring strings, backing vocals, the E Street Horns and, out front of course, Springsteen’s distinctive voice – including some very nice falsetto.

Stateside viewers will have the opportunity to see Springsteen working his way through the songs during a series of Tonight Show appearances next week but the rest of us will have to wait for the world tour which kicks off in Florida in February. The album provides plenty of enjoyment meantime. It’s a diverse selection, up-tempo hits and big ballads, and Springsteen really inhabits each one. Covers were a feature of his early career, but this is different – a much older, much-garlanded musician who has nothing to prove yet who doesn’t rest on his laurels. The emperor’s new clothes fit like a glove and there’s a real sense of commitment to the music. Other legacy acts are now distinctly threadbare.

“Nightshift”, the 1985 Commodores classic, is superb, Springsteen’s breathy, grainy voice transporting you back in time. The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” is a high point, even though you sense he’s pushing his voice – Scott Walker’s huge sound envelopes you and always feels completely effortless. The Spectoresque production is thrilling. On "Turn Back the Hands of Time", the old Tyrone Davis number from 1970, you’d be hard-pressed to identify the singer as Springsteen. From The Four Tops catalogue he’s plucked “When She was My Girl” and, from the Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain." And then there’s David Ruffin’s classic “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?”, the album’s penultimate track which gives way to the optimism of the Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together”.  

The voice is the key component of all soul music and Springsteen delivers, singing to arrangements that are largely faithful to the originals yet never sounding like karaoke. It’s an album of joy for these miserable and difficult times – and one that makes you want to go back to the originals. Which is doubtless what the Boss intends.

It’s a diverse selection, up-tempo hits and big ballads, and Springsteen really inhabits each one

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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