“I always say: In my music, the verses are the blues, and the chorus is the Gospel, if you look at the way my songs are built,” Bruce Springsteen said in 2016.
Occasionally, that gospel influence has come unmistakably to the forefront. One of the best examples of this is “Heaven’s Wall,” from Springsteen’s odds-and-ends 2014 album, High Hopes. It’s not purely gospel or purely hard-rock, but occupies a space somewhere in between. Some have speculated that it was originally intended for an abandoned gospel-rock album.
It’s far from perfect. The lyrics are generic, and Springsteen’s vocals sound surprisingly diffident at times, as if he’s mumbling. It’s hard to imagine the younger Springsteen letting such an unpolished performance be released.
But it still has its rousing moments. Co-producer Ron Aniello creates a rich but uncluttered wall of sound, layering the strings and the choir-like vocals over a taut rhythm section, and guitarist Tom Morello turns in an electrifying solo at the two-minute mark, playing off himself like two guitarists responding to each other.
Background facts: “Heaven’s Wall” was released on Bruce Springsteen’s 2014 album, High Hopes. According to Brucebase, it was performed in concert 14 times that year, as well as on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” (in the same show in which he and Fallon performed the “Born to Run” parody, “Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, New Jersey Traffic Jam”).
Musicians contributing to the track include E Street Band members Max Weinberg (drums), Garry Tallent (bass) and Patti Scialfa (backing vocals); E Street Band touring members Tom Morello (guitar), Curtis King, Cindy Mizelle and Soozie Tyrell (backing vocals), and Everett Bradley (percussion); the New York Chamber Consort (featuring 18 violinists, violists and cellists), and others.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
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