He is one of the last living superstars of American rock, a talented songwriter and one who is considered a true hard worker. His one-hour concerts are legendary.
In the coming year, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band will finally play again in large arenas and stadiums around the world. Before that, “the boss”, as his fans call him, fulfills a personal wish with “Only The Strong Survive”.
“I wanted to make an album where I just sing,” the 73-year-old said in the press release for the release of his 21st studio album. “And what better music should it work with than the great American songbook of the ’60s and ’70s?”
15 Spiritual Pearls of the Golden Age
On his atmospheric new covers album, Springsteen devotes himself primarily — but not exclusively — to the soulful and R&B songs of this musical golden age, which he experienced as a teenager and young man. With star producer Ron Aniello, with whom he has collaborated for a long time, he recorded 15 very different soulful gems during the jam, which harmonize perfectly with each other.
The album’s title came from Jerry Butler’s 1968 single of the same name. “Only The Strong Survive” was the former Impressions singer’s biggest hit. Springsteen gives the song some Rock’n’Roll power, also with his characteristically rough voice. The same goes for “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” by former Motown producer Frank Wilson. This exciting new version would easily fit into an E Street Band concert – as would many of the other songs on the album. The instrumental is more modern, stronger than the classics. This is the soul in Springsteen’s sound.
Singing is the focus
Dobie Gray may be familiar to longtime Springsteen fans. “Boss” covered his big hit “Drift Away” in his concerts in the 80s. Now he’s taken on a song from Gray from the late ’90s with “Soul Days.” He sings it in a duet with 87-year-old soul legend Sam Moore.
Perhaps the most popular tracks on the album include the Commodores’ “Nightshift,” which was originally released in 1985, a year after Springsteen had achieved stadium status with his mega-album Born In The USA. Instead of choral singing, Springsteen’s version features subtle brass in the background. Hammond organ joins synthesizers. But the star is the voice.
“Throughout my working life, my voice has always served my songs – limited by my arrangements, my melodies, my composition, my constructions, my voice was always second, third or fourth.” Springsteen said in a video message accompanying the album. “Now I’ve made music that revolves around singing.”
In his 2016 autobiography, Born To Run, Springsteen was very modest about his vocal abilities. “My vote is enough for this job. But it’s a master’s instrument, so I’ll never get to a higher level with it.”
Six years later, thanks to the new album, another realization follows. “When I heard some of the stuff we recorded, I thought, ‘My voice is amazing!'” Springsteen said. “I’m 73 and I still have it.” Allow yourself so much self-praise because it’s true.
Passion and love for the soul
Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by Frankie Valli and the Walker Brothers, and “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and her Supremes are other immortal ballads attractive, to which “Boss” gives his touch with a lot of feeling and passion and his special voice. On the Temptations classic “I Wish It Would Rain,” the 73-year-old even surprises with his seemingly effortless falsetto singing.
In “Don’t Play The Song,” which Ben E. King first sang before Aretha Franklin had a hit with it, he speaks—unlike his predecessors’ versions—some passages of the lyrics. With some artists, that would sound nice, not with Springsteen, who gives the music really big feelings in the usual catchy and compelling way.
He may be a rocker, but soul has been in his blood since he was young and has influenced his style. Soul has always been audible in his music, for example in classics like “Badlands” or “Hungry Heart”. Only The Strong Survive is a soulful album and yet unmistakably a Bruce Springsteen album. Just listen to his sultry introduction to “7 Rooms of Gloom” – originally by The Four Tops. Rock and soul fuse into an irresistible blend.
“My goal is for new audiences to experience the beauty and joy that I experienced when I first heard the music,” Springsteen said. “I have tried to do justice to all of them and the fabulous authors of this glorious music.” The mission was accomplished. “Only The Strong Survive” is an exciting, eclectic compilation, also superbly produced, where you can hear the passion and enthusiasm of Bruce Springsteen in every song. This is contagious and sets a good mood in the gloomy autumn.