Welcome to Delayed Perspective the blog about Film, TV, Music and other random things I tenuously argue are related to the subject. The mission of Delayed Perspective is a self-defeating attempt to share with you my thoughts on the films and TV shows that have been out for a while and I have only just caught onto or caught up with.
Often I will take a sideways look at a subject or sometimes I may do a straight up review, depending on what takes my fancy.
In this DP I want to look at Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad.
Bruce Sounds Like Bob
I first encountered the boss via his single Philadelphia, not really representative of his other work but I really liked this song, I liked its gruff bleakness and the boss wandering around in a big overcoat. This first encounter inspired me to buy a greatest hits collection, which I purchased on cassette from Our Price (kids I know I probably lost you there, or maybe I didn’t because retro-ism is so in right now). I listened to this collection over and over again and it is fair to say I was hooked, this was about 1993 and when I made the mistake of revealing my like of big Brucie my class mates repaid me with scorn.
I do not think they knew who he was but assuming that it was some kind of country music, I was labelled “a bit gay” (that is 14-year-old boy logic I am afraid) That reminds me of a time a musician friend of mine suggested he play a bit of piano on a rock track and the rest of the band objected, their view being that piano “was gay”. I am not sure whether they meant this in a homophobic way or that because they felt the piano represented an unacceptable amount of happiness for their style of music! Either way you get the idea about the degree of musical closed mindedness that I faced when I revealed my like of Mr Springsteen. I decided at that point in my life to keep my love of Phil Collin’s era Genesis to myself fearing further threats of violence from my peers.
Now I am fully comfortable telling people about my love of Bruce Springsteen I decided it was time to dig out a copy of The Ghost of Tom Joad. I remembered liking “Ghost of Tom Joad” as a single and my recollection is that it was a musical change of direction for the boss as he went all country era Dylan.
Overall on first listen it comes across as way too earnest, which for some people is saying a lot for the most earnest man in rock. For me though it sounds too forced and maybe false. However if you can get past this feeling and the sometimes dreary vocal delivery there are some fine moments, great political lyrics and a real sense of dusty small town America.
“Across The Border” has mournful folk strings and cracking harmonica parts. “Tales of God, Blood and War” has the boss in full on earnest mode (think Born to Run) but stripped right back, the E-Street band’s presence is really felt throughout the album due to their glaring absence.
I have to make special reference to one of the most awful lyrics I have heard in recent times; “If God gives you lemons make some lemonade” on the track “My Best Was Never Good Enough” where he also seems to be invoking not the ghost of Tom Joad but Forrest Gump. This song may be a parody and I am not getting the satire but the problem with the track is, it’s not very good. Despite this bum note I think the record is unfairly maligned and is a worthy addition to his body of work and shows a musician willing to try different things, which can’t always be said about established acts.
The Ghost of Tom Joad is a solid album, well worth trying out and then afterwards if you are depressed you can go and make some lemonade.