Bruce Springsteen – Dream Baby Dream

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

It would seem an unlikely cover – Bruce Springsteen, considered not cool for as long as I remember (though that is changing) – giving his own interpretation of an old electro punk classic by the band Suicide who came up on the late 70’s and are about as uncompromising as they come – harsh, minimal beats by Martin Rev and beat poetry sung in a somewhat appealing croon by Alan Vega. But Bruce’s roots go deep with dissonant music and the two would strike up an acquaintance that was founded on mutual respect. In the mid 00’s Bruce & the E Street Band started covering Dream Baby Dream  – a song that perfectly balances hope & sadness, traits right at home on a Bruce Springsteen record. The Suicide version veered towards the sadness and the Springsteen version adds a layer of hope. In fact – some Springsteen fans may not realize it is a cover. Before he passed away, Alan Vegas said this of Springsteen’s cover “A lot of bands have done my stuff, Suicide stuff, and they basically try and copy and do it the way that you do it. Thank God – finally somebody did their version of it. He did it his way, and such a great way, that I’m going to have to sing it that way, or not sing it at all any more.” The song was released on a 10″ single in 2008 and later was re-cut for the High Hopes album in 2014. The 2014 version features Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on guitar which brings the punk roots of the song full circle. A perfect cover.

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Favorite Records of 2014

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Another year gone by, another year in music to review. For me personally, it was a strange year in music. I found myself listening to unsigned / self released artists more often than some of the mainstream artists that I love so much. 2 Neil Young records – the 1st was good, if not great. The 2nd was a little too lush for my tastes. Neither appear on my year-end round-up. I looked forward to the new John Mellencamp (yes, seriously) but I came away only loving about half the record. Bruce Springsteen added Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to his band and the record he released didn’t disappoint me. I managed to get out to a few shows in 2014 and was blown away by Mudhoney (twice) and First Aid Kit. Speaking of First Aid Kit, their Stay Gold record grew in stature with repeated listens and should help them become a household name. So without further rambling, here are the records that I played the most in 2014. Note: these are listed randomly and I chose to focus on full length releases that were released in 2014.

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Neil Young – A Letter Home

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Like clockwork, about 18 months after the last Neil Young album arrives the new one, A Letter Home. Early rumors had pegged this one as a duets record with Jack White, but those proved to be unfounded. Jack White IS involved – he duets with Neil Young on two tracks and the record is out on White’s Third Man Records. Recalling Young’s experimental 80’s phase, this record comes with its own idiosyncracies – an album recorded entirely in a refurbished Voice-O-Graph box dating from 1947. The Voice-O-Graph (as shown on the album cover) is reminiscent of a telephone booth with barely enough room to accommodate Neil Young and his guitar. The standard edition is a direct to vinyl recording, warm crackles & pops present on the vinyl, CD, and download versions. The deluxe box set features an audiophile edition – just Neil and his guitar in glorious mono. You’d think this might come off as gimmicky – but it doesn’t. In fact, it is the 4th Neil Young record in a row that is an above average effort.

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Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

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Years ago, in the days before I really “got” Bruce Springsteen, I stopped by the Columbus Flea Market on my way to my Grandfather’s shore house on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. There’s no better way to start a trip to the shore – great food, thrifty deals, and old records. Browsing through the vinyl, I came across the 1st two Bruce Springsteen records. “Honey,” the woman in charge of the stand said “those early Bruce records are the essence of New Jersey. If you don’t have them, make sure you grab them.”. And so began a journey that continues to this day. A word to sum it up? Fanaticism.

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Pet Shop Boys – Electric

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2012’s record Elysium by the The Pet Shop Boys sparked reviews that varied in tone and critique. It was sometimes mentioned as beautifully autumnal and sad but also criticized as sounding tired and slightly bitter (often within the same review) – for me it was a record that grew in stature with each listen. I mentioned in my review that it was “not quite a masterpiece, but has some very special, very Pet Shop Boys moments.” I stand by that statement, 9 months later. I will say that one of the singles from that record – “Leaving” – stands as one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs of all time – a perfect embodiment of melancholy and hope. Historical revisionism is a curious thing and appears to be alive and well with the release of the latest Pet Shop Boys record, Electric. It is easy to fall into that trap when faced with a record that is a masterpiece because everything that immediately preceded its release seems dull in comparison. So it goes with the Pet Shop Boys in 2013. I loved last years record, but it couldn’t prepare me for the non-stop delight that is Electric.

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Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In early 1982 Bruce Springsteen demoed songs for the follow-up album to his hit double LP, The River. He holed himself up in his New Jersey home and cut stark home demos that reflected the personal cloud of depression he was going through. Usually the characters on the previous records had found some sort of saving grace – not so on the songs that would become the record Nebraska. The E-Street band versions of the songs were rejected in favor of the stark demo versions and the record was released to critical acclaim in September of 1982. Johnny Cash covered two of the darker tunes just a year later (Johnny 99 and Highway Patrolman) and Sean Penn wrote & directed the 1991 film Indian Runner which was based on the song Highway Patrolman. I love the entire album, but I’ve always thought the track Atlantic City pulled off a neat trick – it wraps a somewhat depressing story to a hopeful melody and layers it with a quality that is hard to capture on tape – desperation.

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23 Albums Touched by the Hand of God in 2012

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23 albums touched by the hand of God in 2012 – a non-numbered list of albums that I’ve played over and over that were released in 2012. Some of them were reviewed here on Jason’s Jukebox, some of them weren’t. All of them are worth your time and attention. The last look back at an amazing year of music. I’ll see you later this week with my 1st review of 2013.

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