Ghost of Tom Joad
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Bruce Springsteen followed his muse on this haunting 1995 release. Perhaps that's why it barely made a dent in the marketplace, even while it thrilled the faithful who were willing to take another dark, Nebraska-like journey with him. It's abundantly clear that Springsteen had been soaking himself in the work of John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie during the writing of The Ghost of Tom Joad, but their combined influence is found on more than just the title track. It's all over these windblown songs (including the haunting "Dry Lightning" and "the seminal "Youngstown") and their hard-scrabble protagonists. Not the Boss's biggest record, but certainly one of his best. --Michael Ruby
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Top Customer Reviews
On "The Ghost of Tom Joad," Springsteen finds himself at his peak--even if he had to leave the rock arena to do it. Sure, his electric guitar-fueled rockers are superb (find one rocker who's had a more lasting impression on various generations, past and present, than the Boss; and if you say McCartney, I'm gonna hit you). However, these gentle (mostly) acoustic numbers are sublime--graceful folk/country songs that sound the bells for the downtrodden (and Springsteen's multi-instrumental talent).
"Straight Time," for example, deals with a former criminal who can't seem to live a decent life; "Highway 29", about a fateful Bonnie and Clyde couple; "Youngstown," about a factory worker who needs a reprieve; "The Line," about a border guard who falls in love with a refugee; "My Best Was Never Good Enough," a darkly humorous tune about a man who just can't win, no matter what advice he's been given; and several other songs, most about immigrants and their troubles.
Yeah, it's a little opressing at first. Springsteen can be that way, when he's writing from his soul. And the album never really picks up, tempo-wise. It's not something you're gonna party to; but if you want good quality music, that'll make you think about yourself and the world, and shine a better light on your relations with others, then "The Ghost of Tom Joad" is your album.
The bottom line is this album is for all those adventerous Bruce Springsteen fans out there who loved Nebraska. It's also for everyone who loves accoustic music and the brave songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Phil Ochs and all those others who took political chances in their music and sang without fierce screaming, but with soft, lonely, vocal tones. Its an essential and it will make you feel like your in the rough, lonely, world of a middle of nowhere working class town like Youngstown.
Aside from that, this album surely isn't a disappointment; it is stark, bold, and magnificently eerie, despite the slightly expanded instrumentation (at least when compared to the bare form of "Nebraska"). Outstanding compositions like the title track, 'Across the Border,' and 'My Best Was Never Good Enough' are all superb, while as a whole, the album holds up strongly as a testament to Springsteen's crusade for the downtrodden. Though it doesn't exceed "Nebraska," "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" is perfect for a sequel.
There are twelve songs on this CD's and they all seem to move at the same lethargic pace. The bleak tone surely does not help. On many of them it is extremely difficult to make out what Bruce is singing or more appropriately, mumbling.
Worse yet are the songs themselves. Most if not all of these songs lack a good melody. Youngstown and the title track are the only ones which seem memorable after three listens. A few others catch me for a moment but then fade away due to an overly repetitive pattern and a strong lack of instrumental definition. The guitar playing is way too quiet that it barely adds any impression to the disc. The ocassional harmonica blasts are the only thing that keeps from dosing off from boredom.
It's not that I dislike it that Bruce decided to make another all acoustic recording. Whereas Nebraska was bleak and limited to a guitar/harmonica instrumental accompanyment, at least Bruce actually put some creative stylings into those songs. And each of those tunes moved at distinctive paces and several of them had strong melodies. The Ghost of Tom Joad on the other hand is dull, dismal, and boring.
Most recent customer reviews
Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Bruce Springsteen (particularly those who enjoy Nebraska) NEEDS this album: a true Classic.Published on Jan. 6 2014 by James Blanchard
When 'The Rising' came out I went back and bought all of Springsteen's past collection. I came across 'The Ghost Of Tom Joad' and sat down to listen to it, not really knowing what... Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Joe Lemondeo
As far as I am concerned, this is the best album Bruce has ever made. As I own practically every album he has released, I am speaking with some knowledge.Published on April 19 2004 by Jesse
The Ghost of Tom Joad is one of the most haunting albums I have ever listened to. It was in fact listening to this album that I noticed the tremendous influence he has had on so... Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2004 by J. Richmond
This "companion" to Nebraska-Springsteens earlier acoustic effort-will stand as his masterpiece. Read morePublished on July 27 2003 by Frank Mc Elroy
My rating - 4.5/5
The "Nebraska" song styles and Bruce's acoustic guitar return in "Ghost of Tom Joad," this time dealing mostly with immigration and... Read more
This is the kind of album we can count on from Springsteen when he's in a folksy, populist mood. But it just doesn't hit home, both in terms of Springsteen and folk populism in... Read morePublished on June 15 2003
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