Bruce SpringsteenHigh Hopes/Columbia
Bruce Springsteen albums are most often well-constructed, cohesive statements, but "High Hopes" is something different - a collection of covers and leftovers from the last decade or so.
As such, it feels like a musical tag sale, albeit one in a very nice neighborhood. Springsteen credits Tom Morello as his muse here, and his snarling, squealing guitar does more than anything to tie everything together. Their duet on a ferocious version of the two decade-old song, "The Ghost of Tom Joad," is clearly the album's high point.
Another song familiar to fans, "American Skin (41 Shots)," feels bloated and dated, not helped that a decade's worth of news has made the incident that inspired it recede from the mind.
The success of a tag sale depends largely on individual taste, of course. We're partial to some of the exuberant pop songs here: the title cut and "Just Like Fire Would" are both obscure cover songs. Springsteen's own "Frankie Fell in Love" is a lark with funny lyrics. They will remind fans of the treasure trove of unreleased material recorded before "Darkness on the Edge of Town," much of it so good that when it finally saw the light of day you wondered what he'd been thinking to keep it hidden so long.
Some of the material on this disc was originally set aside for good reason, but Springsteen's loyal audience will find things to enjoy. It's best not to come in with hopes too high.
By David Bauder, Associated Press
BostonLife, Love & Hope/Frontiers
Give Tom Scholz credit for knowing one of the core tenets of business success: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
On Boston's first album in 11 years, and the first since the tragic death of legendary vocalist Brad Delp in 2007, the band sticks with its tried-and-true sound, one that has come to nearly define the classic rock genre.
From the first time the world heard "More Than a Feeling" in the 1970s, Boston burned its way into rock's DNA with an identifiable sound: layer upon layer of angry guitars, harmonic solos and angelic vocals backing Delp, who could hit notes only dogs could hear.
There's an unreleased Delp track here, "Sail Away," about the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, and it's the only one of the three Delp tracks on this album that's new. Two others - "Someone" and "Didn't Mean to Fall in Love" appeared on the band's "Corporate America" album, but Scholz was never really happy with them and has rebuilt them from top to bottom while keeping the original Delp vocals.
Other songs don't fare as well, including "If You Were in Love" with Kimberley Dahme's nothing-special vocals.
"Heaven on Earth," with David Victor singing lead could be a hit single - that is, if all the Boston fans who were "Smokin' " in the '70s remain loyal to a group who helped define what rock 'n' roll sounded like for many years.
By Wayne Parry, Associated Press
Rosanne CashThe River & The Thread/Blue Note
The songs on "The River & The Thread" rock like a cradle, and the rhythm rings true while Rosanne Cash explores her roots.
The mesmerizing musical journey takes her to Arkansas, the Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast as Cash encounters the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Emmett Till, AM radio and her Civil War ancestors. There's also the repeated tug of Memphis, where Cash was born around the time her father cut his first record.
This Southern music stretches far beyond the confines of country. That's a violin on "Night School," not a fiddle. The 11 songs blend Tennessee flattop twang with gospel, the blues, and even hints of jazz while building a bridge from Dust Bowl ballads to Dusty Springfield pop.
Covering so much territory takes time, but Cash makes it well worthwhile. In these days of downloads, "The River" offers an eloquent argument for albums. Her husband and producer, John Leventhal, pulls it all together and ensures the set's considerable ambitions don't overwhelm the immaculate arrangements. There's no hot pickin' here; instead, Cash's marvelous material is the star as she shares her story of rediscovery.
By Steven Wine, Associated Press