By Muskaan Zaidi, Staff Writer
Bruce Springsteen’s twenty-first studio album, Only the Strong Survive, is a fascinating turn in the American music veteran’s career. It consists of 15 cover tracks of soul music legends such as Ben E. King, the Temptations, and Frankie Valli, among others.
Springsteen uses the cover album as a means of penning a love letter to the strongest voices of American soul music. The genre has undoubtedly had a pivotal impact on Springsteen’s own compositions right from the start.
Released in November 2022, Only the Strong Survive features a wide array of shining cover tracks such as “Turn Back the Hands of Time” — the Garden State icon’s glowing take on the Tyrone Davis classic. Springsteen infuses this quintessential soul song with energy, charm and sheer joy that are all emblematic of his trailblazing career that spans over five decades.
THE BLUE-EYED SOUL VOCALS ON “TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME”
The Springsteen vocal grit has always been instantly recognizable. From his rough-throated crooning on “The E Street Shuffle” to his simmering, dark melodies on “I’m On Fire,” Springsteen’s gravelly voice is iconic, and no less so on “Turn Back the Hands of Time.”
It seems that age has added to, rather than detracted from, the vintage quality of Springsteen’s voice, which aids him in crafting a rich cover of the Davis song. Instead of trying to mimic Davis’s butter-smooth and smokey vocals in the original, Springsteen belts his cover with the original flair we have all come to know and love.
Reminiscent of music’s favorite blue-eyed soul singer Van Morrison, Springsteen’s vocals add such texture to his cover. His voice at times may be raw, it may be pitted with age, but it is always full of heart.
THE ECSTASY IN THE MUSIC
What puts Springsteen’s cover of “Turn Back the Hands of Time” a cut above the rest — far from the barrage of lackluster, tinny covers of soul classics that so often populate our airwaves — is how he manages to elevate an already-beautiful song into something transcendent.
As with any good story, Springsteen carves out a beginning, middle and end within its fabric, purely through his development of sound. Opening first with the pleasing outline of the original melody, the cover gains in speed and energy, rapidly transforming into a bombastic and joyous celebration of love, and more importantly, love lost.
Employing an impeccable supporting band (including his primary backing ensemble since 1973 – The E Street Band – playing his staple horns), Springsteen takes a well-loved tune and injects it with an adrenaline and jubilance reminiscent of his golden days. Days spent screaming ‘Rosalita’ or ‘Born to Run’ in a dive bar somewhere, leather jacket and faded blue jeans in tow.
‘Turn Back the Hands of Time’ lets us know that, though decades may have come and gone, Springsteen’s pure soul never left the stage.
WHAT’S THE BOSS UP TO NOW?
Come February, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will embark on their first tour in six years.
Every Monday, our music staff brings you a new Pick of The Week, detailing some of our favorite songs. Check out our previous Picks of the Week here, and make sure to tune in to WERS 88.9FM!